The 20 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers of the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, who signed the impeachment notice against Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, and their legal representatives, were conspicuously absent this morning as the investigative panel set up by the State Chief Judge commenced sitting even as the governor appeared before the panel.
Governor Al-Makura arrived at the Ministry of Local Governments and Chieftaincy Affairs along Shendam Road in Lafia, capital of Nasarawa State, venue of the panel sitting, as early as 9am.
He was accompanied by a nine-man team of legal representatives, led by Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Udechukwu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). The other members of the legal team are: Olufunke Aboyade (SAN), Professor Earnest Ojukwu, Kehinde Aina, O.O. Adeleye, Olatoye Akinbode, Abdulwasi Musah, Chibuikem Mbachu, and Benjamin Nwosu.
The panel began sitting today before a large crowd of government appointees, associates of the governor and officials of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the governor’s party.
The 20 PDP lawmakers had earlier vowed not to have anything to do with the panel, directing the Chief Judge, Justice Suleiman Dikko to reconstitute the panel. They allege that members of the panel are not suitable because some are members of a political party, just as they said others have friendship ties with the governor. The Chief Judge, however, ignored their directive.
The panel has just adjourned till tomorrow, after it announced that the 20 lawmakers who signed a 16-count impeachment notice to remove the governor defaulted appearance.
The chairman, Yusuf Shehu Usman, after consultation with the other six members of the panel, announced the adjournment, saying the decision was taken “in the interest of justice and fairness.”
He said the panel decided to give an extra day’s grace for the signatories of the impeachment notice to appear and prove their allegations against the governor.
Usman said the panel would cause a notice of invitation of the 20 members to be served on them, and be pasted at relevant offices for their attention.
The adjournment came few minutes after the panel reconvened, following a brief stand down of the hearing, to consider the non-appearance of the 20 members either in persons or through their legal representatives.
Lead counsel to the governor, Chief Udechukwu Nnoruka Udechukwu, rose at the reconvention from the brief break, to plead the case be dismissed, citing Paragraph 7 (C) of the guidelines of the panel, as been in tandem with Section 28 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which provides that when a case is called and the prosecution is not in court for appearance, the court can dismiss the case.
Paragraph 7 (c) of the panel guidelines states that: “Where the House of Assembly fails or neglects to appear and lead evidence in proof of the allegations, the panel, upon proof of service may dismiss the allegations.”
The lead counsel pleaded with the panel to invoke Paragraph 7 (c) because it is in tandem with the provisions of Section 280 of the Criminal Procedures Act.
“I have come to confidently call for the case to be dismissed,” the lead counsel said, faulting the 20 lawmakers on various ways including that they did not serve either the governor, nor make a copy of the impeachment notice available to the panel.
“The only available notice is the publication in the Daily Trust,” Chief Udechukwu said, as he insisted that the panel does not any work to do with the non-appearance of the lawmakers.
But the panel chairman declined action, insisting that in the interest of justice and fairness, the panel will give the lawmakers the grace to appear tomorrow to prove the allegations against the governor.
“The panel has heard the submissions of the counsel to the governor. Having fully consulted, we want to say while we have not fully disagreed, we are of the view that Nasarawa State House of Assembly should be given further opportunity to appear and present their allegations against the governor.
“We will give them yet another opportunity to appear tomorrow (Tuesday). Consequent upon this, we shall; order the secretary to the tribunal to paste copies of the hearing notice to give them yet another opportunity,” the panel chairman said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Musa Ahmed Mohammed and five of the lawmakers who signed the impeachment notice against Governor Al-Makura are facing recall by their constituents over allegations that they did not consult properly before embarking on the exercise.
The other five members are the deputy speaker, Elisha Agwadu, Mohammed Baba Ibaku, Abdulkarim Usman, Francis Orogu and Mohammed Sidi Bako. In two of the constituencies, namely Nasarawa Central, and Udege/Loko, where the speaker and Ibaku are representing, respectively, people have for the past two weeks been collecting signatures from constituents. But the other constituencies have just commenced the exercise.
In Nasarawa Central, the constituents have already set up a central committee headed by the chairman of Nasarawa Local Government Area, Tijjani Ahmed, who is coordinating the recall process with three sub-committees.
A former council chairman, Barrister Mohammed Sani Bawa is heading the Nasarawa Central sub-committee, the state Commissioner of Agriculture, Danladi Madaki, is heading the sub-committee for Udege, while Alhaji Ibrahim Gambo and Nuhu Abubakar, a former councillor is heading the sub-committee for Loko axis.
When contacted, the speaker’s spokesman, Tanko Ibrahim, said: “Frankly speaking, I have no comments.”
Francis Orogu, on his part, confirmed the moves against him but insisted that the process is not one to give him sleepless nights.
“I have 100 per cent support from my constituents to go ahead with the impeachment against the governor. I consulted my people and they gave me the go ahead. Today, they are promising me an automatic ticket because I did them proud by appending my signature to the impeachment notice,” he said.
This is just as Lanze Kassim Ujah, a legislative aide to Usman of Wamba, said he is aware of plans by the minority APC members in his area to recall his boss, but added: “My boss consulted his constituents and got their approval. He is still in touch with his constituents.”
The deputy speaker, Elisha Agwandu, said he got the mandate of a majority PDP constituent to represent the area in the state assembly, just as he insisted that he had the approval of the electorate to sign the impeachment notice against the governor. [myad]