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Reps seek to simplify process for impeachment of President

By The Rainbow
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A bill seeking  to grant absolute powers to the National Assembly to solely initiate and execute impeachment proceedings against a sitting president passed first reading in the House of Representatives.

Following a thorough debate on Tuesday, the bill which 'seeks to remove ambiguities in the process of removal of the President from office on allegations of gross misconduct and to provide for a more transparent and democratic procedure for impeachment and other matters connected' passed despite spirited opposition by even most principal officers of the house.

The bill seeks to empower the lawmakers in the House of Representatives to initiate the impeachment process and investigate the allegations rather than the process lying solely with the Chief Justice of the federation

Sponsored by Honourables Yakubu Dogara and Emmanuel Jime, the bill seeks to amend  Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution.

The sponsors of the bill had maintained that it sought to 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.

The 1999 Constitution, as amended in Section 143, clearly spelt out procedures of impeachment for the president and, or the vice-president.

The sponsors of the bill, in their respective arguments, however, claimed that there were some defects and ambiguities in the section.

The duo, in their separate debates, also denied insinuation doing the round that the proposed bill was targeted at President Goodluck Jonathan.

Honourable Dogara said in developed countries, powers to impeach a sitting president was exclusively vested on the parliament, while Honourable Jime noted that the move was intended to address constitutional challenges that the lawmakers were finding difficult to challenge.

To this end, he faulted the provision of the constitution that stated 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.

The leader of the House, Honourable Mulikat Adeola-Akande, in her contribution, described the bill as 'totally undemocratic,' stressing that 'Nigerian democracy is still too young to be compared with America's.'

The deputy leader, Honourable Leo Ogor, on his part, said the proposed amendment negated the principle of fair hearing, as the House would be the judge in its own case, rather than the arbiter it was expected to be.

The minority leader, Honourable  Femi Gbajabiamila, maintained that the power to impeach the president or his deputy already laid with the lawmakers, noting that impeachment processes was supposed to be rigorous, painstaking and the last resort.

Though most lawmakers kicked against the bill, it was eventually passed for second reading when the deputy speaker, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over the session, put the question through voice votes.