The move to remove Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State has continued to pit the Peoples Democratic Party-dominated House of Assembly against the anti-impeachment group, Fisayo Falodi writes
The All Progressives Congress has been preoccupied with the task of stopping the perceived move by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party to remove state governors under its control.
Pundits believe the Presidency might have orchestrated the impeachment of APC governors in order to weaken the party ahead of the next year general elections.
The APC, which has woken up to the realities of recent impeachment of Murtala Nyako as the governor of Adamawa State for gross misconduct by members of the state House of Assembly, has resolved to stop the plot by Nasarawa State lawmakers to remove Governor Tanko Al-Makura.
Al-Makura was elected on the platform of the defunct Congress of Progressive Change during the 2011 general elections before the party merged with others to form APC.
The Nasarawa State House of Assembly had levelled 16 charges bordering on official misconduct against Al-Makura. The lawmakers had ordered that the governor should be served an impeachment notice signed by 20 of its 24 members.
One of the charges raised against Al-Makura was the missing Local Government Joint Account Funds between June 2011 and April 2012 and from January to July 2013.
The lawmakers also alleged that the governor misappropriated and misapplied funds in the joint account and Local Government Sure-P Fund. He was also accused of transferring local government SURE-P fund to a fixed deposit account.
According to the lawmakers, the offences violated Section 162 (7 and 8) of the 1999 Constitution.
But the governor described the allegation as hoaxes. He said in spite of the allegations against him by the PDP-dominated members of the House, he could not be classified as a corrupt leader.
He said contrary to the report widely publicised by the House, he had yet to be served with the impeachment notice.
Al-makura had said, “It is not true to assume or claim that I had received the impeachment notice from the House of Assembly.
“In as much as I would not like to join issues with the House of Assembly on the pages of newspapers, I would comply with Section 188 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.”
But sensing that the Nasarawa lawmakers may carry out their impeachment threat against Al-Makura as Adamawa legislators did to Nyako, the APC leadership, however, vowed to put up a hard fight against the PDP to stop perceived plan by the Presidency to remove three more governors on its platform.
The APC National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said Nyako’s impeachment was a sad commentary on the character of the lawmakers behind it, alleged that some members of the state House of Assembly were induced with huge amount of money to fast-track the removal.
He said “All we can do is to take the matter to the court of public opinion as we have done. This country belongs to all of us; we are going to use every legal and constitutional means available to us to stop this invasion of our constitution.
“We have in recent times drawn the attention of Nigerians and friends of the country to this menace and the likely consequences.
“We are challenging some of these actions in court. What is more worrisome to us is that even when you win in court, they treat it with levity.”
But the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Adamu Kamale, countered the allegation and challenged anyone who had any evidence of wrongdoing against the lawmakers to make it public.
He said, “Are they saying the 20 allegations levelled against the former governor are not true?
“If what we are saying that he diverted a huge amount of money belonging to Adamawa State for personal use is untrue, are they also saying that it is not true, that he drafted his family and friends into the affairs of government? Why did the former governor not appear before the panel to defend himself? Let them answer these questions.”
To, however, prevent the impending embarrassment staring it in the face as regards the impeachment plot against Al-Makura, the APC leadership last week held a secret meeting in Abuja where it strategised on how to stop the governor’s removal. The meeting was said to have resolved to build robust support for the governor as well as hire a team of competent lawyers to prevent the impeachment.
Despite the APC meeting and interference by some traditional rulers, the Nasarawa lawmakers insisted on Al-Makura’s removal as they vowed not to enter into any negotiation with anyone or group of people over the impeachment notice already served on the governor. The lawmakers even demonstrated their determination further by threatening to protest traditional rulers’ interference in the saga.
The Chairman of the state House Committee on Information and Security, Baba Ibaku, had said, “We have started this. We cannot go back, no matter the involvement of the chairman of traditional rulers.”
He had said any intervention by the traditional rulers would not prevent the lawmakers from carrying out their constitutional duty.
Another member of the state House of Assembly, Mohammed Okpede, who represents Doma South Constituency, dismissed allegation that the lawmakers were bribed with N200m each to impeach the governor.
Okpede had said, “The allegation was false. We are counting days; we started about five days ago and when the time reaches, we will respond appropriately.
“We have the number of days stipulated in the constitution and as soon as the time reaches, we will just go back to the chamber and direct the state Chief Judge to set up a committee of inquiry for the governor to appear.”
Al-Makura, who had seen the lawmakers’ determination to remove him, quickly moved to Abuja to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan so as to stop the impeachment. Sources said issue concerning the planned impeachment was basically discussed at the meeting.
The question now being asked by pundits is: Will the APC succeed in saving Al-Makura from being impeached, despite the party’s determination to use legal and constitutional means available to stop the move?
The state Chairman of APC, Philip Shekwo, readily provided the answer. He told Saturday PUNCH in a telephone interview that the people were not in support of the impeachment plot.
He said, “The people will continue to mobilise support for Al-Makura. The traditional rulers too are still intervening. So, all the allegations raised against the governor by the lawmakers are false.
“Governor Al-Makura has performed well. In the history of Nasarawa State, no governor has performed like the administration of Al-Makura. That is why people are rising to support him.
“The members of the state House of Assembly threatening to impeach the governor are pursuing an unpopular agenda. The lawmakers are representatives of the people, so we are calling on them to shelve the idea in the interest of the state.
“Nasarawa State is bigger than anybody or group of people, that is why we will continue to call on the lawmakers to consider their stand in the interest of the state.”
To anti-Al-Makura’s lawmakers, no amount of intervention would stop them from going ahead with the governor’s removal.
However, there are indications that the lawmakers are not ready to back down on their plot to remove the governor. A reliable source in the House of Assembly told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that the lawmakers had vowed to resist attempts by stakeholders, especially traditional rulers, to intervene.
The source said, “With the way the lawmakers are going about the plot to impeach Governor Al-Makura, he will need to pray hard to seek God’s intervention. All the lawmakers have been resisting plans by stakeholders to intervene in the impeachment saga. So, the impeachment can be carried out any moment from now. As things are now, Al-Makura’s fate is hanging.”
To demonstrate that they are serious about the impeachment plot, the lawmakers ordered the state Chief Judge, Justice Sulaiman Dikko, to set up a panel to probe the alleged gross misconduct and abuse of office levelled against the governor, but the panel has yet to begin sitting when the lawmakers rose to challenge its composition. The lawmakers are claiming the probe panel members were political office holders and called for their dissolution.
But from the way the scenario is going, it appears that Al-Makura may survive the impeachment plot as a crisis of confidence bordering on alleged partisanship and partiality has hit the seven-man panel.
Al-Makura has, however, carried the battle to frustrate the impeachment plot further by hiring seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend him before the panel when it begins the investigation. The lawyers, sources said, had met with the governor on how to handle the defence.
The presence of the lawyers has confirmed claim by Al-Makura’s Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Abdulhamid Kwarra, that the governor was putting everything together to appear before the panel at the appropriate time to defend himself.