The rift between the Nasarawa State House of Assembly and the state Chief Judge, Justice Umaru Dikko, over the constitution of a panel to probe Governor Umaru Al-Makura has worsened. The lawmakers have insisted that the panel remains ‘dissolved.’
The Assembly on Friday, again, dismissed the seven-man panel set up by Justice Dikko, insisting that the panel does not exist, as far as it is concerned.
The lawmakers had asked the Chief Judge to constitute a panel to investigate allegations of wrongdoing against Al-Makura, as part of his impeachment process.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Information and Security, Mr. Baba Ibaku, had on Wednesday said the lawmakers resolved to demand the dissolution of the panel during their emergency sitting at the House of Assembly complex last Monday.
The spokesperson for the lawmakers argued that the fact that the panel members held political positions in the state was against the provision of Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Despite the lawmakers’ directive, the panel began its sitting on Thursday.
While speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH in an interview again on Friday, Ibaku insisted that the House had dissolved the panel. He said the lawmakers were still waiting for the CJ to re-constitute the investigative panel.
He said, “As far as the lawmakers are concerned, there is nothing like seven-man panel set up by the state Chief Judge, Justice Dikko, and we have since dissolved them, waiting for the CJ to re-constitute a new panel.”
In a related development, the outlawed Ombatse cult and Eggon youths, who have backed the move to impeach the governor, were said to be poised for a showdown over the burning of a lawmaker, Muhammad Muluku’s car by youths suspected to be APC members.
Ibaku, however, said he and other members of the Assembly had not been associating with the groups. He said the lawmakers did not employ anybody to work for them.
He stated that if the groups were threatening, they had their reasons.
Ibaku, who could not confirm when the lawmakers would reconvene, stated that the lawmakers would sit when there was the need for them to do so.
The lawmaker noted that members of the Assembly would only sit at the complex when they discovered that the state was peaceful and conducive to their sitting. He said it would be difficult for the lawmakers to sit in the complex with youths burning tyres along the roads.
“We decided to sit at the Karu Local Government Area of the state recently because there was no peace in the state. We were told that some youths suspected to be APC loyalists set one of our members’ car ablaze at the Akuruba area of the state,” Ibaku said.
The Assembly, which began the impeachment process against Al-Makura a few weeks ago, could not reach him (the governor) to serve him the impeachment notice. It later published the impeachment notice in some national newspapers.
In his reaction on Friday, the Director of Press to Al-Makura, Ali Yakubu, dismissed threats by the lawmakers as their opinion.
He stated that the issue (of panel dissolution) was a constitutional matter, adding that Section 188 empowered the Chief Judge to constitute the seven-man panel to investigate the governor.
“It is a constitutional matter which empowers the CJ to constitute the seven-man panel to investigate the governor,” Yakubu stated.
He further said the lawmakers had done their part and that Dikko had also done his part.
Yakubu urged the lawmakers to leave the Chief Judge to perform his function as stipulated in the 1999 Constitution.
Meanwhile, constitutional experts have said the legislature lacks the power to interfere with the constitution and activities of an investigative panel in an impeachment process.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that a House of Assembly could not appoint members of an impeachment panel and that only the Chief Judge reserved the right to do so.
He said, “With regard to the impeachment of a governor, you cannot act outside of the provisions of the Constitution. The power to appoint the panel is given to the Chief Judge. Each department has its own role.
“The role of the House of Assembly is the first stage of passing its resolution, mandating the Chief Judge to appoint panellists. And after the appointment, it is for the panel to look at the allegations and then the outcome of those allegations will go back to the House of Assembly. You can’t transgress your own limits.”
Oyetibo noted that the lawmakers had to wait for the panel to conclude its investigations, except there is “cogent and compelling evidence that they (members of the panel) are members of political parties.”
Similarly, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, stated that the Nasarawa State House of Assembly had no right to interfere with the panel. He also said the Chief Judge alone had the powers with regard to the composition of an impeachment panel.
“The House of Assembly does not have powers to dissolve the panel. They have no role to play in the composition. There are checks and balances. Their own is to sign the impeachment notice and for the Chief Judge to constitute the panel.
“Whether they are happy or unhappy about it (the composition), is totally irrelevant. It is the chief judge’s panel,” Osipitan stated.