One thing that makes the presidential system of government unique is the cardinal principle of separation of power. In this system of government, the three arms of government – executive, legislature and judiciary – are supposed to be separate, distinct and independent of one another. They, however, work towards one goal: Good governance.
In the presidential system, each arm performs its functions, as assigned by the constitution. Whereas the executive formulates policies, enforces law as well as maintains law and order, the legislature makes law. The judiciary, on its part, interprets the law and also applies it. While the President, Vice President, members of the Federal Executive Council (ministers, etc.) and the civil service, make up the executive arm of government, the legislature comprises lawmakers or members of the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives). The judiciary is made up of the courts.
However, in discharging their duties independently, the three arms of government are expected to have some measure of influence over one another, without interference, in the doctrine of checks and balances. This is why laws made by the legislature could be vetoed by the President declining assent. Also, when the President declines assent, the legislature could override his veto with a two-third majority vote. The legislature could also remove the President from office through impeachment, just as the judiciary could declare a law passed by the legislature and assented to by the President unconstitutional, if such law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution. Also, the judiciary could declare actions of the executive unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.
From the above, it is obvious that the three arms of government are powerful in their own rights. These arms of government could affirm and hold onto their independence or give it away, depending on how they conduct themselves. Each arm could give away its independence or make a mockery of itself by its conduct or misconduct.
Recently, the Kogi State House of Assembly made democracy look stupid as well as made a mockery of the legislature as an institution of government.
The assembly broke the rules in impeachment proceedings and inadvertently booked itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records for that reason. Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, was having a running battle with his deputy, Simon Achuba. There were allegations of gross misconduct against the deputy governor. The House of Assembly, in response to allegations against the deputy governor, started impeachment proceedings against him.
As required by the Constitution, Deputy Governor Achuba was asked by the Assembly to respond to the allegations, following which the lawmakers asked the chief judge of the state to constitute a panel to look into them. The Chief Judge, Nasir Ajanah, constituted a seven-man panel, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. The panel sat and investigated the allegations. Having concluded its findings, the panel submitted a report. The verdict of the panel was this: The deputy governor was not guilty. According to the chairman of the panel, John Baiyesheam, a lawyer, the allegations against the deputy governor were not proved, and the panel said so in its report.
Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, outlines how a President, Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor could be removed from office through impeachment. The Kogi State House of Assembly followed all the proceedings in the process to remove Achuba, except Sub-section 8. Section 188(8) says: “Where the panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation against the holder of the office has not been proved, no further proceeding shall be taken in respect of the matter.” Despite the panel’s not guilty verdict, the Kogi Assembly, in violation of the constitutional provision, went ahead to pronounce the deputy governor guilty and, consequently, impeached him.
Well, Deputy Governor Achuba has been forcefully removed from office. A new deputy governor has been nominated by Governor Bello, cleared by the House of Assembly and sworn in by the chief judge. It is, however, obvious that due process was not followed in removing the deputy governor. Good a thing, Achuba has gone to court. As the arbiter, Nigerians expect the judiciary to rise to the occasion, as it has done many times in the past, in relation to removal of governors or deputy governors from office through impeachment. The judiciary should serve justice accordingly.
Many past governors and deputy governors removed from office through illegal impeachment had to get redress in court. Immediate past deputy governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, challenged his impeachment in court.
The court nullified his removal from office and reinstated him before the expiration of his tenure. Although then Governor Rochas Okorocha did not allow him to perform the functions of deputy governor thereafter nor paid him his salary and entitlements, the court voided the illegality carried out by the state’s House of Assembly.
In Anambra State, Peter Obi was removed from office as governor through impeachment. He sought redress in court and his impeachment was quashed. He returned to office to complete his tenure as elected governor. In Oyo State, Governor Rasheed Ladoja was also removed from office through impeachment. He went to court and his impeachment was upturned. Also, Mr. Joshua Dariye, as governor of Plateau State, was illegally removed from office through impeachment. The court quashed his impeachment four months thereafter. In all the cases, the courts came to the rescue.
With the record of quashed illegal impeachments, it is indeed inconceivable that the Kogi State House of Assembly flagrantly ignored the provisions of the Constitution to achieve an aim. The question is: Who is the Kogi State House of Assembly working for? Is the Assembly working for Governor Bello, who wanted to settle scores with his deputy, or the Kogi people, who elected them to office? Granted that the Kogi Assembly could define “misconduct” the way this pleases it, however, whenever a panel constituted by the chief judge of a state, in an impeachment proceeding, clears the accused, all processes are supposed to stop. Going ahead with the impeachment process is a violation of the Constitution.
It is disheartening that the Kogi State House of Assembly, which should serve as a check against the excesses of Yahaya Bello, a governor whose performance in government leaves much to be desired, is rather supporting his impunity. If there is anybody who deserves impeachment, it is Governor Bello, for non-performance in office. Doing otherwise and pouncing on the deputy governor is laughable. Besides, when a House of Assembly, which makes law, becomes a lawbreaker, democracy is at risk and being mocked.
The judiciary should, therefore, right the wrong in Kogi, for the sake of the country’s democracy. The judiciary should look at Achuba’s case with dispatch, knowing that it is barely three months before his tenure as deputy governor ends. The judiciary should do the needful, which is the setting aside of the illegal removal of the deputy governor from office. Even if the verdict would come after January 27, 2020, when a new government will be inaugurated in Kogi, the court’s nullification of the impeachment would show the Kogi Assembly how misguided it has become. The Kogi legislature is on trial and justice must be served.