A New Learning Curve In Ebonyi Governor’s Impeachment Saga
The elastic interpretation given to “gross misconduct” under s.188 of the 1999 Constitution has almost gone full cycle since its first introduction by Kaduna State during the second Republic. Each subsequent invocation has tried to exploit defenses or exceptions provide by that section. That is not unconnected with the difficulty in separating the provisions of the law and politics. The attempt in Ebonyi State suggests that impeachment process can be legally torpedoed.
There seem to be tacit acknowledgement by all and sundry that “impeachment'', a word not visible in the 1999 Constitution refers to or inter-changeably used with “removal” of the president and vice in section 143, for gross misconduct if the removing institution now the National or State legislature forms “the opinion” that that is the case.
The case that has laid the issue to rest is ADELEKE V. OYO STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY (2007) NWLR (pt 100) 608 where the CA Stated that since s.188 (1)-(9) prescribed procedures, the proper interpretation to be given to the ouster of the courts interference is that it should only be activated when such procedures had been complied with. Applying this ratio to the purported service of impeachment notice to Gov. Martin Elechi it does seem that if he could compel the court to stop service of the notice it is a rebut-table presumption that he has not been served. Therefore since the Chief Judge, state and Federal Attorney-General were bound by the ex-parte order the defendants have to set aside the restraining order before commencing the process afresh.
Even when that time comes it would be reference to INAKOJU V. ADELEKE (2007) 4 NWLR where the principles of impeachment procedure aka the five tests were laid down. That is still a very long to come. The correlation between Ebonyi impeachment attempt and Adamawa deputy Governor Bala Ngilari who succeeded Murtala Nyako are that of political allegiance and loyality to the PDP and compliance with S.188 of 1999 Constitution. After swearing in as the substantive Governor of Adamawa State in October 2014 on the orders of Justice Adeniji Ademola of the Federal High Court, Governor. J.B Ngilari collected PDP nomination form towards gubernatorial election 2015. It appeared that unknown to Ngilari probably before Nyako's removal former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu had been tipped to fly PDP gubernatorial flag in the State. So the incumbency factor failed Ngilari as Ribadu clinched the ticket. But allegiance and loyalty to PDP would no longer be a priority for a
circumstantial governor whose ambition to test his popularity at the polls was cut short.
It is therefore viewed as double jeopardy by political observers for PDP to insist on Ngilari's allegiance and loyalty after cutting his ambition to fly PDP's gubernatorial flag short. Only time will tell if being tipped for senatorial seat by PDP would be compensatory enough even though volatile.
In the case of governor Martin Elechi his ambition to have former Health Minister, Prof. Chris Onyebuchi Chukwu succeed him was also cut short by the PDP's imposition of his deputy David Omahi. Naturally his allegiance and loyalty to the party was questioned to the point of raising several counts of impeachment offenses. What the ensuing protest against Elechi's impeachment highlighted was the fact that the governor's choice of Prof. Chukwu against deputy governor Omahi did not amount to sabotage against PDP. That Elechi's apparent cold feet for Omahi's campaign could not translate to disapproval of Jonathan's presidency which he and the people of Ebonyi are passionate about. Besides how many governors have supported their deputies to succeed them. What Nyako did to Bala Ngilari in the court trial amounted to dying declaration believing that it would have extended the incumbency factor to the overall benefit of their joint ticket.
However, it is hoped that before the next general election in 2019 the thorny sections of the 1999 Constitution must have been amended.