Nigerians were shocked recently when the Kogi State House of Assembly announced the impeachment and removal of the state’s Deputy Governor, Mr. Simon Achuba. He was promptly replaced by Mr. Edward Onoja, who until then, was the chief of staff to the state Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. Having gone through a dozen or so impeachment exercises in the past, Nigerians have come to view impeachments as exercises that come with the presidential system of government. The only wrinkle, this time, was the bizarre turn the Kogi State drama took.
It began on July 7, 2019, when an impeachment notice was read on the floor of the House by the Majority Leader Abdullahi Bello. In the petition, Mr. Achuba was accused of what was described as “criminal indulgence,” financial misappropriation, and non-performance of his duties as deputy governor. The Majority Leader also announced that an overwhelming majority of the House, 21 out of 25 members supported the petition. Mr. Bello summed up that in totality the acts of Mr. Achuba, in the eyes of members of the Kogi House, amounted to gross misconduct. He then cited Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides the redress for the Deputy Governor’s offences, and called on Kogi State House of Assembly to commence the process toward the impeachment of the Deputy Governor.
The Speaker of the House, Mr. Kolawole Matthew, agreed with the House and the petition was ordered to be served on Mr. Achuba, the Deputy Governor. He was also required to respond to the allegations within 14 days as required by law. Then on August 26, as prescribed by the Constitution, the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Mr. Justice Nasiru Ajama, inaugurated the Investigative Panel of seven Kogi State notables which was charged to uncover the veracity or otherwise of the allegations against the Deputy Governor. The Panel comprised Mr. John Baiyeshea (SAN), who was the chairman, Hon. Justice S.S. Idajili (retd.), Barrister G.O. Onoja, Barrister E.I. Omuya, Venerable Z.O, Asun, Engr. Muhammad Ada Shuaibu and Dr. J. Ndagi Adamu. The panel did its work, despite distractions, and concluded in its report: “In line with Section 188(8) of the Constitution…. We hereby report to the Kogi State House of Assembly that the allegations contained in the notice of allegations admitted in evidence by this panel as Exhibit C7 has not been proved.” This was where due process ended in the impeachment saga and brigandage took over. The law is unambiguous and has been recited innumerable times that if the investigating panel returns a verdict of not guilty, the impeachment process must terminate there and then and no further question can be raised under any circumstances.
The Panel handed its report to the Chief Judge who handed it to the Speaker and in less than 30 minutes, the Kogi Assembly reportedly convened in an emergency session in a closed door. It became the duty of the House Majority Leader, Bello, to announce that Achuba had been impeached following “consideration of the report of the John Baiyeshea-led committee.” The report was accepted, said the Majority Leader, with the Kogi lawmakers unanimously agreeing to impeach Mr. Achuba and “he therefore stands impeached.” It was a brazen act of political vandalism.
The impeachment has been condemned by many Nigerians. The impeachment, many also think, was uncalled for. Mr. Jaiyeshea, the senior advocate who headed the panel was lost for words. “This is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard in my life. We submitted the report around 1p.m. and I left Lokoja for Abuja. I was at Gwagwalda area when one of the panel members who had not left Lokoja called to tell me that he saw it on television that the Deputy Governor has been impeached.”
The impeachment of Mr. Achuba is reminiscent of what happened in the early years of the Fourth Republic when state governors—Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo State, Diepreye Alamieseigha of Bayelsa State, and Joshua Dariye of Plateau State—were removed without following due process. In this case, it would appear that the source of Mr. Achuba’s troubles has been the State Governor, Yahaya Bello. Opinions are coalescing that grievous violations of the constitution, as occurred in the Kogi State impeachment saga, must attract stiff legal sanctions, which should include the immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.