Reps seek absolute power to impeach President

By The Citizen

A BILL seeking absolute power to solely initiate and execute impeachment proceedings against a sitting President to rest with the National Assembly Tuesday scaled second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives. The proposed legislation was intended to amend Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution.

Though debate on the general principles of the Bill appeared as if it was going to be rejected as several members were of the opinion that it was not necessary, it, however, dramatically passed second reading when Deputy Speaker of the House, Emeka Ihedioha who presided over plenary, put the question for a voice vote proposal.

Its sponsors, Emmanuel Jime, Chairman, House Committee on Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Yakubu Dogara were of the opinion that it would remove 'ambiguities in the process of removal of the President and the Vice President from office on allegations of gross misconduct and provide for more transparent and democratic procedure for impeachment and for other matters.'

Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) elaborately provided for the procedure of impeaching the President and, or the Vice President.

But proponents of the amendment Bill argued that there were a lot of defects and ambiguities in Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution. They also separately denied the assertion that the move was targeted at impeaching President Goodluck Jonathan.

Dogara, who quoted several authorities to buttress the justification of vesting the powers to impeach a sitting President exclusively on the parliament, especially in America, argued that one of the defects in the provision was the only basis to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president as enshrined in the Constitution was for 'gross misconduct' which he said was not clearly defined.

In Jime's opinion, the proposed piece of legislation was intended to address constitutional challenges that the lawmakers were finding difficult to address.

Section 143(11) reads: 'In this section, 'gross misconduct' means a grave violation or breach of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of  the National Assembly to gross misconduct.'

The lawmaker also faulted the provision that the Chief Justice of the country should be the one to raise a panel to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct against the President or the Vice President. 'How can the Chief Justice, who himself is an appointee of the President be the one to set up a panel to investigate the allegations.

Dogara's submissions were however countered by Leader of the House, Mulikat Adeola-Akande, who described the Bill as 'totally undemocratic,' adding that laws are made based on specifics of any given society. 'Nigerian democracy is still too young to be compared with America's,' she said.

The Deputy Leader of the House, Leo Ogor, also cautioned that impeachment proceedings are usually extreme cases which the said section had explicitly provided for, adding that the proposed amendment negates the principle of fair hearing as the House 'would be the judge in its own case' rather than the arbiter it is expected to be.