Impeachment as a tool for good governance

Posted: May 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

By Mike Yawe

The gale of impeachments sweeping across the country in the last few weeks has become a source of worry and threat to good governance in the country.
Every democratic society has mechanisms that checkmate its leaders from becoming autocratic. This is in consonance with the words of Lord Acton that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution provides for the impeachment of both the President and the Vice President while Section 188 of the same Constitution provides for the removal of governors and their deputies. This latter section is a replica of section 170 of the extant 1979 Constitution under which Alhaji Balarabe Musa of the defunct People’s Redemption Party (PRP) of the old Kaduna State was impeached by a House dominated by the also defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He was the only executive Governor removed under that constitution.

“gross misconduct” means a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.
Between 2005 and 2007, five governors were impeached by their State Houses of Assembly. The only unifying factor of these impeachments was that none could be said to have followed due process. They were all removed without having regard to constitutional provisions.

The return of democracy in 1999 till date witnessed impeachment processes carried out without recourse to the constitution and the courts had to step in to revert some of this impeachments but the collateral damage to our democracy for such ill conceived, contrived and executed Impeachment s is already taking its toll on our democratic credentials.

Impeachment is now used as a tool of blackmail against elected officials, while some of these impeachments are been challenged in the courts and it will be subjudice to comment on specific cases, we are however constrained to counsel against using impeachment as a tool of vendetta at the least provocation.

The constitution states clear processes to be complied with in impeaching a Governor or deputy, but
what we have seen so far is compliance more in the breach, for instance we have heard of cases where the panel set up by the chief judge sits for a few hours and concludes deliberations on a serious matter as impeachment. It often takes the house less than 30 minutes to move a motion and impeach a sitting elected official as highly placed as a deputy Governor. This is in the least a mockery of the provisions of the impeachment process.

The houses of assembly at the state level, which has the constitutional role of serving as a check on the executive arm of Government have had more impeachments against their presiding officers. As at today there are more than four speakers whose jobs are threatened by impeachments between the last elections and today. It was even reported that the Kebbi house of assembly impeached its speaker while on recess. What was the emergency in carrying out such an impeachment in such a brazen manner?

National-Assembly1

Curiously, no Governor has received an impeachment notice for failure to pay salaries or abdication of duty on security matters as if often reported in the press over the conduct of some state executives. How do we reconcile a situation where a Governor who is owing 6 months salary donates 500 million Naira to the campaign organisation of his political party.

We implore the various state and National Assembly members to emulate referees of football matches, who even though they have a red card in their pockets only use it as a means of last resort. Football matches would become rancourous and un interesting if every offence is visited with a red card hence we appeal to legislators to use impeachment only where it becomes inevitable.
The relationship between Governors and their deputies which usually deteriorates in their second term arising from succession struggles should be handled with care by both parties.
The voter who stays in the sun defying all odds to vote is interested in good governance and nothing more.

Perhaps at this point, Nigerians will like to know how many bills tailored towards the benefit of the citizens, besides impeaching governors at any whim, these legislators have sponsored and passed into law? Also, what meaningful developments in terms of jobs, infrastructure, economic prosperity, and international recognition, to mention but a few, have they brought to their constituencies? In fact Nigerians are interested in knowing the answers to these questions.

It will not be out of place here to recommend that the impeachment process be made as tedious as the recall process for legislators. A stitch in time they say saves nine, hence we advice that impeachment should not be used as a yard stick for intimidation nor blackmail. The impeachment train has landed at Niger state today, who knows where next it is headed to?

Mike Yawe is of the Radio Nigeria Investment ltd

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