THE impeached Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, moments after the state lawmakers pushed him out of power, said he had accepted his fate but asked his traducers to be mindful of God’s judgment.
“Praise be to Allah, we accept what has happened. This is the judgment of man; we should all remember that there is God’s judgment in the hereafter,”Nyako said through his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Ahmad Sajoh.
Sajoh told The PUNCH that his principal had accepted his fate.
Members of the Adamawa State House of Assembly on Tuesday impeached the former governor after adopting the report of the seven-member panel that investigated allegations of gross misconduct against Nyako.
Both the governor and his deputy, Bala Ngilari, had been investigated but the deputy governor sent his resignation letter to the state House of Assembly few hours before the lawmakers voted out Nyako.
Speaker of the state assembly, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, was on Tuesday sworn in as acting governor.
Fintiri’s swearing-in rubbished earlier speculations that the Peoples Democratic Party wanted to stop the Speaker from becoming the acting governor.
A source, who gave this indication on Tuesday, explained, “You know the deputy governor’s resignation is a nullity by virtue of the fact that it was procedurally wrong. The constitution stipulates that his resignation letter should be submitted to the governor and not the House of Assembly.
“The PDP in Abuja wants to swear in the deputy governor as acting governor but the Speaker, who hails from the same constituency as the deputy governor, shelved him out to pave the way for himself.
“It is even curious that the Speaker, who is desirous of being a direct beneficiary of the whole thing, was the one who personally presided over the impeachment.”
Nyako had also said on Tuesday that his deputy’s resignation remained a nullity because it did not follow constitutional procedure.
The ex-governor’s spokesman, in a statement, said, “We wish to state categorically that Section 306 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as Amended requires that the deputy governor resigns not to the House of Assembly but to the governor.
“As of the time the supposed resignation was said to have been tendered in the House, Murtala Nyako was the Governor of Adamawa State.
“No such letter was written to him, none was received by him and none was approved by him. It should therefore be known that in the eyes of the Law, the deputy governor has not resigned. Bala James Ngillari is still the Deputy Governor of Adamawa State.
“This clarification is necessary to avert another subversion of the Constitution since the other processes relating to the impeachment saga have all been in contravention of the Constitution and the Law.”
The statement cautioned that the continued abuse of the constitution and the laws of the land might spell doom for Nigeria’s democracy.
Nyako’s removal followed the adoption of the report of a seven-man panel earlier constituted by the former acting Chief Judge of the state, Justice Ambrose Mammadi, to investigate allegations of gross misconduct levelled against the governor and his deputy by the Peoples Democratic Party-led legislature.
The former governor has been a member of the All Progressives Congress since he defected from the PDP late 2013 alongside other ex-PDP governors Rotimi Amaechi, Rivers State; Musa Kwankwaso, Kano; Abdulfattah Ahmed, Kwara; and Magatakarda Wamakko, Sokoto.
On Tuesday, 18 out of the 25 members of the Adamawa State House of Assembly endorsed the governor’s impeachment.
The investigative panel, which was headed by a retired judicial officer, Buba Kajama, found Nyako guilty of 16 out of the 20 allegations levelled against him.
Fintiri, who presided over the session, drew the attention of the members to Section 188 sub-section 9 of the country’s 1999 constitution, which stipulates that the House should consider the report of a panel by two-thirds majority and that if the House adopts the report, the governor or his deputy shall stand removed from office.
The Speaker said, “Based on the adoption of the panel report Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State shall stand removed from office.”
The member representing Gombi, Jerry Kundisi, moved the motion for the adoption of the report. He was seconded by the Deputy Speaker, Kwamoti Laori.
Kundisi quoted section 191, sub-section 2 of the constitution, which states that “if a governor is removed from office and office of the Deputy Governor is vacant, the Speaker of the House of the Assembly shall be sworn in as an acting Governor for the period of three months.”
After members unanimously adopted the report, the House directed the President of the Customary Court of Appeal to swear in the Speaker as an acting governor, since the state has no substantive or acting CJ.
Don’t misuse power,Atiku tells PDP
A former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, on Tuesday warned the PDP-led Federal Government against what he described as ‘‘excessive use of power’’, which Atiku said was not good for decent democratic practice.
The ex-VP, who was reacting to the impeachment of Nyako, said in a statement issued by his media office in Abuja that wielding the axe of impeachment against elected public office holders in order to settle scores by the Federal Government would needlessly build up tension in the country.
The former Vice-President said, “The reckless use of impeachment to settle scores could not have been the intention of the framers of the 1999 Constitution. The frequency with which elective officials were being shot down by impeachment would destroy the whole purpose of inserting the impeachment clause in the Constitution.
“The use of impeachment to harass and humiliate perceived opponents by the PDP-led Federal Government would ultimately bastardise the spirit in which the constitution provides for the impeachment clause.”
He admonished the Federal Government to take it easy in the way they use power, adding that “the constitution was not meant to provide ammo for anybody to harass and humiliate opponents or force them out of office.”
He also criticised the use of financial inducements to influence the removal of perceived opponents from office.
‘Nyako ouster unfortunate’
Ex-Governor of Kwara State, who is also a leader of the APC, Senator Bukola Saraki, described the impeachment of Nyako as unfortunate.
Saraki also raised the alarm that four other governors were already on the firing line.
He said, “It is very unfortunate and I think we are seven months to the end of the tenure. We all need to look at the bigger picture, look at the stability of our democracy. After Adamawa, I think Nasarawa State governor is being served with impeachment notice and three other states are going to be served.
“The bigger issue in this country now is the issue of security and poverty. Some of the issues raised against the Adamawa State governor can also apply anywhere and we need to be mature with our democracy.
“The issue of impeachment should not be our priority at this stage and those of us that love this country will really need to talk to ourselves and be more concerned about challenges before us instead of dissipating our energy on issues that will divide us by overheating the polity and creating problems for ourselves.
“We should talk about how to improve security and ensure better living conditions of our people. Those who are beating the drums now should know that it will come back to them.”
Lawyers on impeachment
Some lawyers on Tuesday criticised the removal of Nyako, arguing that the process of his removal did not comply with the law.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Emeka Ngige, asked the impeached governor to challenge his removal in court.
The lawyer, who expressed confidence that the removal of the governor would be nullified in court, criticised the failure of the investigative panel to ensure that the notice of impeachment was personally served on the governor.
He said, “I believe that the process will be nullified in court, it is only a matter of time. Ladoja suffered the same thing in Oyo State. A similar thing happened in Anambra. They went to a hotel to impeach Ladoja.
“You cannot serve impeachment notice on somebody through substituted means. That was part of the reasons Ladoja’s impeachment was set aside.”
He also expressed concern over the implication of calling on the military to provide protection for the Acting Chief Judge while setting up the panel.
He said, “It is part of the danger of our militarised democracy. This will not do this country any good. A situation where a Chief Judge is surrounded by soldiers with a view to setting up a panel leaves much to be desired.
“I don’t think that is what the drafters of our constitution had in mind when they created various arms of government to handle impeachment.
“When you bring in the soldiers to now meddle in the process, then you are polluting the entire exercise.”
Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) said he would not want to comment on the process as he was already in court challenging the impeachment notice served on Nyako.
Another SAN, Mr. Yusuf Alli, who said he had not followed the process leading to the impeachment of the governor, said “we already saw it coming.”
Chief Felix Fagbohungbe, however, said the impeachment of the governor was a demonstration of the PDP’s move to take over states being governed by the APC.
He said reversing the impeachment in court would be a herculean task even if the process had been manipulated.
Fagbohungbe said, “Ordinarily, the procedure would have been followed, but whether the intention was proper is another thing because it has political undertone. It is the PDP that is at work.
“The PDP wants to take over the states controlled by the APC and the more they try to take over the APC states, the better chance the PDP has to win the presidential election.
“They would follow the procedure, even when they follow it, they would manipulate it by making sure that they get the right person, who will do their bid to take over. It is a pity that it will create more problems that Nigerians would want to see.
“Even if you go to court. Any court procedure to reverse it will be a herculean task.”
Chairman, Civil Society Network against Corruption, Mr. Lanre Suraj, also condemned the impeachment of the governor.
He encouraged Nyako to challenge his removal in court, arguing that the failure to personally serve the governor with the impeachment notice had rendered the whole process a nullity.
He also faulted the intention of the PDP-dominated Adamawa State House of Assembly to impeach the governor as the allegations levelled against Nyako could be said to have been committed while he was still in the PDP.
Suraj said, “Even if the parliament has the constitutional power to impeach a governor when there are infractions in his actions, the process that has just been employed is not too clean and clear enough.
“There is a process the impeachment notice is supposed to be served on the governor. The question you will ask yourself is, would Nyako have been impeached if he was still in the PDP? All the allegations he was accused of were activities he carried out when he was under the PDP.
“I encourage Nyako to go to court and if our judiciary is truly independent, the process of his impeachment will be nullified.”
But Dr. Joseph Nwobike (SAN) expressed a contrary opinion, arguing that the procedure for impeachment as set out in the Constitution was substantially complied with.
He said the failure of the removed governor to appear before the investigative panel amounted to an admittance of the charges levelled against him.
Nwobike said, “I think the procedure of impeachment set out in the constitution was substantially complied with.
“The problem was that the former governor refused to appear before the panel and it means that if you refused to appear before the panel, all the allegations of misconduct levelled against him were proved.
“It means there was no contrary evidence against the allegations. So the panel was right to have given a guilty verdict against the former governor.”