14th September, 2012
Nnamdi Felix / Abuja
A desperate attempt by the National Chairman of African Liberation Party, ALP, and serial Presidential election contender, Mr. Emmanuel Osita Okereke to stop the House of Representatives from commencing impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan before a Federal High Court siting in Abuja collapsed on Friday as the court declines to make the requested order.
The legislators had issued the impeachment threat against the President over the shoddy manner the presidency was handling the implementation of the Appropriation Act of 2012 which implementation level was abysmal as at the time the House went on recess. They threatened to commence impeachment proceedings against Jonathan if he fails to implement the budget 100% by the time the House resumes from its annual vacation by Tuesday, next week.
In refusing to grant the order to forestall the commencement of impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan, the court held that it must be very certain that the impeachment proceedings has begun and on course before it can entertain the suit so as not to interfere with the responsibilities of the Legislative arm of government.
The presiding judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole further stated that sections 143 (1) of the 1999 constitution requires a joint impeachment resolution of both arms of the National Assembly before the president can be removed and observed that the Senate was not made a party in the suit. He thereafter held that by not joining the Senate as a party to the suit, that the motion ex-parte cannot succeed.
Furthermore, the court observed that it is not be a proper occasion for it to grant ex parte order against the. Speaker and the House of Representatives as its consideration of the reliefs sought by the Mr. Okereke largely benefits the president who is also a defendant in the suit making the situation a contradictory one.
Justice Kolawole averred that section 143 of the nation’s constitution empowers the National Assembly to remove the President from office but that the section makes it mandatory for both chambers of the National Assembly and noted that no single arm of the legislature can remove the President. Both chambers must act together but the Senate was however not a party in the suit.
“The presence of National Assembly is not sufficient to draw the Senate into the ring. The real and imminent urgency may not have been reached to warrant the intervention of this court. To this extent, the court must exercise its powers with caution as an arm of government. The procedure and guideline provided for in section 143 (1) to (9) are so elaborate and impeachment should not be undertaken so casually so as not to send wrong signals to foreign investors” the court noted.
These sections provide as follows,
143(1) The President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(2) Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly:-
(a) is presented to the President of the Senate;
(b) stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice-President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified,
the President of the Senate shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice cause a copy thereof to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the National Assembly, and shall also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office to be served on each member of the National Assembly.
(3) Within fourteen days of the presentation of the notice to the President of the Senate (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice) each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.
(4) A motion of the National Assembly that the allegation be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed, unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.
(5) Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provisions, the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall at the request of the President of the Senate appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provide in this section.
(6) The holder of an office whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person and be represented before the Panel by legal practitioners of his own choice.
(7) A Panel appointed under this section shall –
(a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the National Assembly; and
(b) within three months of its appointment report its findings to each House of the National Assembly.
(8) Where the Panel reports to each House of the National Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.
(9) Where the report of the Panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office has been proved, then within fourteen days of the receipt of the report at the House the National Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
The court subsequently refused the ex parte application and ordered that the defendants be served with the processes to enable them have their say before the matter can be determined and adjourned indefinitely to enable the Chief Judge re assign the case file to a regular court as the court’s annual vacation ends today.
Mr. Okereke had in the ex parte motion prayed the court to grant an interim order restraining the leadership of the House from proceeding with the impeachment as it was capable of distracting the president from discharging his duties.
Listed as defendants in the suit are the Speaker of the House of Representatives; the House of Representatives’ the National Assembly; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice and President Goodluck Jonathan.
In his affidavit in support of the originating summons, Okereke stated that the move to impeach the president from office for non implementation of 100 percent of the 2012 budget in July 2012 is heating up the polity and averred that the September deadline issued by the House for 100 percent implementation of the budget which is three months earlier than the end of 2012 calendar year and six months from the end of the 2012 budget / fiscal year is a disguise to cause political turmoil.
He also stated that he and his party, the African Liberation Party, ALP, still nurse the aspiration to occupy the Presidency and that their aspiration may not be possible in a heated polity.