Impeaching a Deputy Governor
Impeaching a sitting Deputy-Governor of a State in Nigeria is a very serious matter. It is serious not simply because it amounts to effectively ‘sacking’ the number two citizen of the State in question, but also because it amounts to reversing the decision of a majority of the citizens of that State, who have placed the Deputy-Governor in that office for a stated term by voting for him/her in the Gubernatorial elections of that State.
Due to the severity of the issue, the process for impeaching a Deputy-Governor is pretty stringent and is contained in the one document which has a very strict process and procedure for amendment- The Nigerian Constitution. The process for impeaching a Deputy-Governor in Nigeria is contained in Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution.
Steps for impeaching the Deputy-Governor of a State in Nigeria:
A notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the Deputy-Governor. This notice must be signed by not less than one-third of the members of the State House of Assembly is presented to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
* Gross misconduct is defined by the Constitution as ‘…a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.’
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly must within 7 days, serve the Deputy-Governor of the State and each member of the State House of Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation.
The Deputy-Governor has a right of reply (he/she does not have to reply however), and any such statement in reply to the allegation must be served on each member of the State House of Assembly.
Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, the State House of Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. This motion needs to be passed by at least two-thirds majority of all members of the State House of Assembly.
If the motion fails to reach the required majority, the process immediately stops, and no further action will be taken. However, if the required majority is obtained and the motion is passed, then the Speaker of the State House of Assembly will within 7 days of the passing of the motion, request the Chief Judge of the State to appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity to investigate the allegations. The members of the Panel cannot be members of any public service, legislative house or political party.
The Panel is to report its findings within three months of being appointed. The findings will be reported to the State House of Assembly. During the proceedings of the Panel, the Deputy-Governor shall have a right to defend himself, and shall also have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/her choice.
Where the Panel reports that the allegation has not been proven, there will be no further action. However, if the report is that the allegations against the Deputy-Governor have been proven, then the State House of Assembly will consider the report, and a resolution for the adoption of the report shall be moved.
For the resolution to be adopted, it must be supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all the member the State House of Assembly. Once adopted the Deputy-Governor shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
Consequences of impeachment
- Upon the adoption of the report by two-thirds majority of the State House of Assembly, the Deputy-Governor stands impeached, and most immediately vacate the office of Governor.
- Once the resolution is adopted, there is no recourse to any court of law or judicial proceedings. The Governor cannot challenge the decision of the panel or the State House of Assembly.
- The Governor will immediately commence the process for nominating a new Deputy-Governor. This choice must be approved by the State House of Assembly.
*Although once the impeachment resolution is passed, the impeachment cannot be normally challenged, however, recent court cases have established that, the clear position of the law the courts are empowered to determine the legality or otherwise of the process leading up to the removal of the elected official. In other words, though the impeachment can’t be challenged in court, the process leading up to the impeachment can be challenged in court.
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