- It’s illegal – NBA, N/Assembly PDP Caucus
Outrage has greeted the impeachment of the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Elder Simon Achuba and swearing in of the former Chief of Staff to Governor Yahaya Bello, Edward Onoja, as the new deputy.
Constitutional lawyers, opposition politicians, professional bodies and other citizens have described the action as illegal.
The Chief Judge of Kogi State, Justice Nasir Ajanah, yesterday administered the oath of office on Onoja as the new deputy governor. The event took place at the banquet hall of the government house in Lokoja.
Amidst condemnation over the recent development, Achuba was
allegedly forced out of his official quarters to pave way for the new deputy governor to take charge.
Onoja’s swearing-in was preceded by his screening by the state House of Assembly presided by the Speaker, Matthew Kolawole.
The event was witnessed by Governor Yahaya Bello, the Secretary to the Kogi State Government, Mrs Folashade Ayoade-Arike, members of the state assembly, political office holders and other well-wishers.
Impeachment at variance with panel’s report
The impeachment followed the submission of the report of the John Baiyeshea (SAN)-led seven-member investigation panel which reportedly exonerated embattled Deputy Governor Achuba of allegations of gross misconduct.
The panel, after its investigations, held that the allegations against Achuba were not backed by evidence, and that the purported report of a panel that indicted him was not placed before it during its sitting.
The allegations against Achuba, which were endorsed by 21 out of the 25 members of the State Assembly, included alleged financial misappropriation and non-compliance with extant financial regulations and fiscal responsibility, deliberate disdain for decisions of the Kogi State Executive Council and absconding from office.
Though the panel setup to investigate Achuba cleared him of any blame, the Kogi State House of Assembly went ahead to remove him from office.
Legal experts told the Daily Trust yesterday that the decision was in violation of the Nigerian Constitution.
Section 188 (8) of the said constitution provides as follows: “Where the Panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.”
Senior lawyers spoken to yesterday described the removal of Achuba and the swearing-in of Onoja as new deputy governor as null and void and an exercise in futility.
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), noted that there was already a court order before the chief judge of Kogi State set up the impeachment panel, adding that once an order had been entered by a court, anything done in defiance of that order would be set aside.
“Most seriously is that the impeachment panel set up by the chief judge headed by a respectable and incorruptible legal practitioner, Mr John Baiyeshea (SAN) returned a verdict of not guilty.
“Pursuant to Section 188 of the Constitution that ended the matter, any other thing done thereafter, impeachment, the swearing in by the chief judge are all an exercise in futility,” he said.
Also reacting to the development, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said the House of Assembly and the governor were wrong to have declared the deputy governor impeached and gone ahead to nominate somebody else for the “position that is not vacant in the eyes of the law.”
“The constitution is clear about it that once a panel comes up with a verdict that the allegation is not true, that automatically ends the matter. So, there is absolutely no basis for the House of Assembly to have gone ahead to say they have impeached the deputy governor,” he said.
“The judiciary should not have lent itself to that situation by proceeding to swear-in somebody as deputy governor. So, the deputy governor would have to go back to court to seek the appropriate judicial reliefs,” he said.
Also reacting, Ahmed Raji (SAN) said the court remained the only remedy for the illegality in Kogi State, adding that the fact of the fresh oath administered by the chief judge on the new person does not make the act legal.
“They swore in Alao Akala and he was asked to step aside. The only thing here is time is gone. Maybe by the time the case is determined, the election (in Kogi on November 16) would have held. But let him (Achuba) at least clear his name that he was not impeached,” he explained.
Jibrin Okutepa (SAN) on his part said the action was a mockery of democracy and a desecration of the Nigerian Constitution. He called on democrats and the international community to intervene in the state.
Respect rule of law- NBA
Speaking on the matter, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has called on interested parties in Kogi to respect the provisions of the constitution and adhere to the rule of law.
A statement signed by the NBA Secretary Kunle Edun said the constitution was supreme and its provisions should have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Action debased democratic principles -PDP Reps caucus
The PDP caucus in the House of Representatives has described the removal of Achuba as illegal, unconstitutional and a debasement of democratic principles.
The caucus, in a statement jointly signed by its Leader, Kingsley Chinda, Deputy Leader, Chukwuka Onyema, Whip, Umar Barde and Deputy Whip, Ajibola Muraino said: “We watched with very keen interest recent developments surrounding the embattled Deputy Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency Simon Achuba.”
The caucus noted that Nigerians and democrats must condemn the purported impeachment which was carried out by the Kogi assembly in concert with the Kogi State Government.
According to the statement, the purported impeachment was “to say the least, offensive, grotesque and embarrassing as the entire impeachment process itself was a hoax.”
Onoja describes ascension as ‘divine’
Speaking shortly after his inauguration, Onoja described his elevation to deputy governor of Kogi State as “divine and timely.”
He commended Governor Bello for finding him worthy as his deputy and pledged not to betray the confidence reposed in him.
“As we prepare for the November governorship election, we now stand on two feet to execute that project and by the grace of God, on that day, the entire people of Kogi will speak for us,” he said.
Onoja also thanked Achuba “for allowing God to use him” in “quickening” his (Onoja’s) destiny of becoming deputy governor.
Also speaking, Governor Bello described his new deputy as a loyal and trusted friend who had always demonstrated excellent ability even as his chief of staff.
He expressed belief that the elevation “will no doubt spur him” to do more in the task of moving the state to the next level.
“Today my joy knows no bounds. This is history in the making that you see two brothers, in fact Siamese twins, becoming number one and number two.
“This journey did not start today. We have been in the trenches, myself and Edward Onoja. We are spurred to do more. We are simply pencils in the hands of Almighty God to turn around the fortunes of Kogi State.
“This is not a time for celebration, neither are we mourning, but Edward and I regard this as a call to duty. I believe that with the cooperation of everybody, we are going to succeed,” he said.
Speaker Kolawole on his part described Onoja’s emergence as reward for his loyalty.
He charged the new deputy governor to continue to toe the path of loyalty and hard work which earned him the elevation, saying “managing success is more difficult than achieving success.”
Kogi stakeholders condemn action
Reacting to the development, the PDP in Kogi State described the purported impeachment as an exercise in futility which cannot stand.
Spokesman of the party in the state, Bode Ogunmola said “you cannot build something on nothing and expect it to stand,” adding that the exercise amounted to wasting tax payers’ money by the governor to perpetrate illegality.