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Professor Femi Ajayi

Here we go again as the members of the House of Representatives are back in the game of moving the goal post to the direction of the ball ignoring the regulations. The season is at hand again when members of the National Assembly need something to augment their personal revenue in addition to the bogus allowances at their disposal.

The House of Representatives, joined by the Senate in camaraderie, is threatening to impeach the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for breaching the 2012 Appropriation Act. The house that is yet to be cleansed from the ‘money’ not ‘bribe’ taken; sensed its putrid home with very strong decontaminator, wants to bring in deluxe beddings where they could sleep on. The deadline of September 2012 to attain the 100% of the budget is unachievable

Matters took a turn when Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, advised that an impeachment process be initiated against the President for allegedly failing to implement the 2012 budget. According to Gbajabiamila “It is my suggestion that by September, {2012} if the President continues to fail to comply with the provisions of the Appropriation Act, we should begin to draw up and invoke the article of impeachment.” Normally in Nigeria, impeachment is being used as a check mate against the arbitrariness of the holder of the office of the President.

A school of thought is of the opinion that some ‘rouges and robbers’ in the house who belong to the ruling political party are not right in demanding for the impeachment on its leader for not implementing the 2012 Budget which was passed on March 15, 2012. They are following the Nigerian Labor Congress tactics of using strike as the first choice in redressing their grievances against their employers. The PDP led house is using impeachment to address the 2012 Budget challenges, instead of working with their leader for rectification.

Is the House of Representative calling for shady implementation of the projects just for contract awards, regardless if executed or not?

The ‘coup plotters’ are at it again; refreshing when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) joined forces with the rival political groups, notably the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to elect Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as Nigeria’s 7th House of Representatives Speaker, since 1999. It then made a mess of the ruling party’s zoning rules. It is now the Leader of the Minority Party in the House that moved for the impeachment of the President, echoed by the PDP House leadership.

PDP members ought to know that, they would definitely get the full support of the rival political parties with such a move from ACN, as the arrow head. They have played to the hands of the rival political parties. Definitely, Lizard would definitely found a way through the cracked wall to get into the building. They speak like ‘lord of the flies; in most cases wanting to push the shame of the failed hunger-driven probes that they set up with no solid accomplishment.

Some Nigerians are of the opinion that the impeachment threat is beyond the 2015 electoral battle; or the smear campaign on Femi Gbajabiamila who became a member of the Bar in 2001, admits that he accepted payment of $25,000 as settlement of a client’s personal injury claims, deposited in his attorney trust account in January 2003, failed to promptly disburse those funds to his client; withdrew those funds for his personal use, closed his practice in Georgia and moved to Nigeria. He eventually paid the $25,000 to his client in 2006. His conduct violated Rule 1.15(I) of the Georgia Law and he is subject to disbarment. That is for another day.

Nevertheless, the question Femi, an international legal practitioner needs to answer, if impeachment is the first step in addressing slow budget implementation in July 2012; on the budget approved on March 15, 2012. My point is that he should know better as a Lawyer, that there are procedures the House need to follow, before reaching impeachment verdict.

Impeachment process takes due process, not something that would happen overnight based on the country’s 1999 Constitution. In a civilized world, impeachment of a President goes through three stages, notice of allegation, investigation, and trial. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, impeaching a public official would happen within 24 hours.National Assembly

Section 143(2) (b) initiates the procedure for the removal of the President or the vice-President. It starts with a notice of allegation, signed by at least “one-third of the members of the National Assembly” specifying that the President is “guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of his office…” Within seven days, members of the National Assembly and the President must be served with copies of the notice of the impeachment, in addition to any initial response from the President.

Due process is clearly stated in Section 143(2) (b), which allows, at least one out of three members of the House and the Senate collectively, to deem the President “guilty of gross misconduct” before any investigation or trials.

Unfortunately, the President has already been found guilty by the National Assembly on the pages of Nigeria Media outlets before serving the President notice without applying the Section 143(11) that defines “gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office” as a “grave violation or breach” of the Constitution or any “misconduct” determined to be “gross misconduct” in the opinion of the National Assembly. Neither would they allow the fourteen days, according to Section 143(3), to lapse, whether to go on with the investigation of the allegations, which must be supported by two-thirds of the National Assembly.

A joint biased tainted committee of the National Assembly will possibly conduct the investigation since the Constitution is silence on that.

The last concern is who will preside over the trial of the President? In the United States, the Supreme Court Justice presides over such trial. If two-thirds of the Senate found the President guilty, he will be removed.

In Nigeria, the National Assembly has usurped the power of the Executive, and the Judiciary, makes allegation, investigation, and trial as part of its oversight responsibilities. Take the case of the House panel on the SEC, when the House Committee Chairman on SEC publicly accused Otteh of spending so much in the Hotel without consulting his fellow Committee members. Alternatively, there was another case when the Senate fined International Airline operators without any trial in the law court.

As members of the impeachment panel, where in Nigeria, could we found persons of “unquestionable integrity” in the country without contamination on something as members of the trial panel?

Nigerians have been in fools bliss since 1999 with the shady approach on budget implementation. Each year it has not been managed to protect and enhance the best interests of the country. The Finance Minister, Okonjo-Iwealla, should continue to fight the “systematic rot,” so as to make transparency and prudence the key priorities of the federal government in the management of the 2012 budget. Possibly members of the diluted House of Representatives is using the language it understands, impeachment, to shape up the executive on the budget implementation.

As of July 2012, the Minister of Finance has indicated that 56% of the 2012 budget has been implemented with the sum of N401, 648, 460, 791 so far released with N324, 556, 851, 948 of that amount being cash backed. In addition only N184, 848, 092, 533 has been utilized as at July 20, 2012, just as capital allocation for 2012 budget stood at N1, 519, 986, 106, 691 and only 21.35% of the total allocation has been cash backed. In addition, the percentage amount utilized from the releases so far stood at 12.16% as at July 20, 2012.

Some Nigerians are believing that the HOR could be using the impeachment as face-saving, on the ‘money’ taken not ‘bribe’ received, from the oil marketers on the tainted report. Saving face could be too late because they have spent the ‘money’ not ‘bribe’ from oil marketers. How much fight can they put on to safe one of its most adored members?

Impeachment move should not serve as linctus for the House members’ frustration if they are at the control of their responsibilities. Is it a fact that members of the National Assembly increased the budget above what was proposed by the executive, which would benefit them? Meaning that non-implementation of the budget 100% would deflate their cash flow. So in order to get their inflated budget approved, they have to impeach the President to bring someone that would implement it.

Budget implementation is not what should be turned into blame game. Each section of the government has their specific roles as highlighted in the Constitution in providing services to the citizens. Once the Legislature has approved the budget, it is the responsibility of the executive to implement without any delay. This is not for the Presidency denying conflict between the Legislature and the Executive. Conflict is an on-going business in individual’s life, so also, in whatever human being is involved in providing services to the citizens, especially between the Executive and the Legislature. It is the wish of Nigerians for the two arms of the government to prudently approach their responsibilities responsively.

It has also gone beyond name calling either we like the members of the House of Representatives, or with the slow pace of an individual who could not put his household in order, allowing his wife to be promoted to the position of the Permanent Secretary while serving as the wife to the President of Nigeria.

We should look at the President’s laxity or inability to implement the larger percentage of 2012 budget. This has probably shows that the President lacks the required skills to go about his executive business, that is good governance. Nigerians do not like to discover at the end of the year, the money voted in the 2012 budget disappeared as it is obvious now, August 2012, that nothing tangible has been achieved.

What the members of the HOR are calling for is beyond convincing citizens from the South-South to show what they had benefited individually even with a President from the area. Alternatively, it is far beyond some fifth columnists outside the National Assembly, were actually behind the bid and that the forces were pushing that both President Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo should be listed for impeachment. It is also beyond branding the impeachment threat as a Northern agenda. I believe this sound like Nigeria agenda.

Nigerians are aware that Boko Haram is actually making Nigeria ungovernable with its security challenges pose for Jonathan. Nigerians are very much concerned of corruption and the break down of law and order. As it is today, August 2012, Nigeria is like a ship sinking while the captain is having a nap!

Some crazy men went on shooting rampage in Okenne, Kogi State, August 7, 2012 killing innocent souls in the Church and Mosque. Kwara State should be on the Security alert. The writings are clearly on the wall as to the direction Nigeria is heading.

It should go beyond the allegation that ministers are not loyal to President Goodluck Jonathan. The President independently, so we believe, selected his team to work with. The monitoring of their assignments is for him to take care of. He has the right to call the sort if and when they are slipping away from their responsibilities. There is no need for the public opinion to decide for the President since they know details of their responsibilities while the citizens are awaiting their services.

PDP, as well as any other Political Party, must have a sort of avenue to settle party challenges or somehow resolve party disputes not at the mercy of the citizens. PDP members of the House must be ashamed of themselves in supporting the impeachment move against the President. They must have their brains under their feet if they could not settle the dispute within the party caucus as members of the ruling central government.

Regardless the personal opinion from any of them, thinking that the impeachment move came from the rival party in the house; it is not a way to redress issues between the executive and the legislature. It is being used as a way of demonstrating their mental laziness on the part of the members of the HOR on conflict resolution.

There is no doubt that the House has the power to call the attention of the Executive to any poor implementation of the budget for checks and balances or as part of its overblown oversight responsibilities. There are other ways of addressing any poor implementation of the 2012 budget. The National Assembly should summon Ministers for some explanations as to the status of the budget for each ministry, not the President.

While Nigerians are right to state that impeachment is being used to collect some estarcode to travel to Mural, buy ram for Ileya, or go on pilgrimages to Mecca, Jerusalem, Asia, or Okirika Shrine whenever that may be, the National Assembly should devise a civilized approach in checking the excesses or lapses of the executive.

Professor Femi Ajayi is Head, Political Science and Public Administration Department, Babcock University, Ilishan-Remo, Ogun State

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