By Carrington Osarodion Omokaro,
First and Foremost i would like to appreciate Mr igogo ovie and Mrs Igogo Edijana ESQ because the discussion and legal reasoning with them prompted me to write this Article which I’m certain would be of importance to so many.
In Nigeria, it has been a Normal Parlance to refer to the removal of the holder of the Office of President/Vice President or Governor/deputy governor as the impeachment of same. While there have been several cases relating to the latter, we are yet to experience such as it relates to the former. As a resulttherefore, i will focus on the removal of the holder of the office of Governor/Deputy Governor. When a Governor or his deputy is removed from office, we are quick to say he has been impeached.
The Notion that the word impeachment in Nigeria is same thing as the removal when making reference to the Holder of the office mentioned above is the Crux of this Article because though most people are aware that the meaning of Impeachment in America is an Allegation which i am comfortable with, they think that in Nigeria it means removal. But is that really True? I initially had same notion that impeachment in Nigeria means removal. However, after a discussion i had with Mr Igogo Oviea Top-class Photographer who i like to refer to as a Lawyer by association and his Wife my senior colleague in the Legal Profession Mrs Igogo Edijana ESQ, that notion changed. I have however made more research than that contemplated by our trio to further justify our assertion and i have also taken it upon myself to educate the populace.
Fortunately, i came across an article which was written in December 2019 by my lecturer Mr Sylvester Udemezue popular known as Udemz who taught me while i was still a student in the Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa Campus. A man i so much admire due to his wealth of knowledge, personality and teaching style. His ability to impact is simply fantastic. In His Article Titled Meaning of Impeachment: How Prof. Farooq Kperogi Displayed Double ignorance in his condemnation of The Nigerian Media & Law MakershePostulated that in some other legal jurisdictions, “Impeachment” may mean “removal from office” if the drafters of the law wish it to be so. Subsequently, in one of the paragraphs particularly the paragraph before the penultimate, he made reference to Section 146(3)(a) and 191(3)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 cited by Prof. Farooq Kperogi and went further to state that Impeachment as used in both sections rightly mean “removal from office” because such is the meaning ascribed to it by the makers of the constitution. I agree with my Lecturer/senior colleague to the extent where he said that impeachment may mean removal from office if the drafters of the law wish it to be so but i disagree with due respect to his assertion that impeachment as used in Section 146(3)(a) and 191(3)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 rightly mean removal from office.
MY HUMBLE VIEW
The word “impeach”/ ‘Impeachment” when used is always in reference to the end result/outcome of the procedure and proceeding encapsulated in section 188 (Removal of Governor/Deputy Governor) and 143(Removal of President/Vice President) of the 1999 constitution. The aforementioned section mentioned steps in removing a president/vice president or Governor/Deputy Governor which involves some procedure and proceeding and if the allegation against the holder of the office is proved and adopted by the panel set up as contemplated by that section, the holder of the officestands removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report. When such happens, people often say he or she has been Impeached. However, the title of that section 188 is Removal of Governor or Deputy Governor from office not impeachment of the governor or deputy governor from office. Interestingly, i have carefully and cautiously looked at and even went as far as counting all the words used in section 188 and there are about 584 words used in the section but no where in the section was the word “impeach”, “impeachment” or “impeachment proceeding” ever mentioned or used. I would have reproduced the provisions of Section 188 here but for its bulky wording, i choose not to.
You may want to question my assertion that the usage of the word impeachment is always in reference to the outcome of the proceedings highlighted in Section 188. In justifying my assertion, My readers may notice if they have researched well enough that in Nigeria, cases of impeachment/impeachment proceedings so called have always been made mention of when trying to justify whether or not the court ought to entertain such impeachment proceedings based on the ouster clause of subsection 10 of section 188 which states “No proceedings of determination of the panel or the house of assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court”. My point is that When the holder of the office is Removed or should i say impeached as we popularly like to use, he or she goes to court to challenge the so called “impeachment” while the adverse party seems to raise the objection that based on the aforementioned sub-section, the holder cannot challenge his impeachment in court because the court lacks jurisdiction based on the provisions of the ouster clause. The issue of whether the court had jurisdiction or not in such circumstance is not the crux of this article so i would not delve into that. But i made reference to it just to show you how the word “impeached” which our populace love, seems to come up. In concluding this Paragraph, you would agree with me that it is true that the word “impeached” is used when referring to the outcome of section 188 even when the section never made mention of the word. So, I wonder the justification for using the word interchangeably with the word “Removed”.
CAN THE WORD “IMPEACHMENT” BE SAID TO BE RIGHTLY ASCRIBED BY OUR LAW MAKERS TO MEAN REMOVAL???
Let me at this juncture produce a section of the Nigerian Constitution. First, Section 191(1) which is titled “Discharge of function of Governor”. It states thus “The Deputy Governor of a state shall hold the office of the Governor of the state if the office of the Governor becomes Vacant by reason of Death, resignation, IMPEACHMENT, permanent incapacity or REMOVAL OF THE GOVERNOR FROM OFFICE FOR ANY OTHER REASON IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 188 or 189 of this Constitution”. The words in bold and capital letters are for emphasis. Secondly, Section 191(3)(a) &(c) “Where the office of the Deputy Governor becomes vacant- (a) by reason of death, resignation, IMPEACHMENT, permanent incapacity or REMOVAL IN ACCORANCE WITH SECTION 188 or 189 of this constitution. (c) for any other reason, the Governor shall nominate and with the approval of the house of assembly of the state, appoint a new Deputy Governor”. The words in bold and capital letters are for emphasis.
A critical look at the sections above would reveal to you that impeachment has a separate meaning which is undefined, not expatiated in any manner and thus vague, compared to removal in accordance with Section 188 which we already know what is contained therein taking cognizance of the fact that the word “impeachment” in that section was never mentioned. To further buttress the difference between impeachment & removal is the presence of the punctuation mark (,) a comma to the best of my knowledgeis used to separate words/ word groups as well as to separate independent clausesor indicate a smaller break. It thus states death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal in accordance with section 188 or 189 of this constitution. This reasonably indicates a pause to highlight different circumstances where a governor may be discharged of his function. Every word in the aforementioned list is self explanatory except for impeachment which is vague & standing on its own without been given a scenario by our drafters to even suggest or have an idea of what it means not to talk of defining it. Mind you, if we are to go by the dictionary meaning of impeachment, it then means the word ought not to be found in Section 191 of our Nigerian Constitution because an office Holder cant possibly be discharged from office by reason of impeachment just like people don’t go to prison because they have been accused of an offense.
Making reference to the constitution of the United States of America, Article 1 Section 2 particularly paragraph 7 states “The House of Representatives shall chuse their speaker and other officers; and shall have thesole Power ofImpeachment”.Article 1 Section 3 particularly paragraph 6 of same constitution states “The senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside; And no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the members present”.May i also cite paragraph 7 of Article 1 section 3 which states “Judgement in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honour, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgement and Punishment, according to Law”. A thorough reading of the aforementioned wordings in the constitution of the united states would not leave you in doubt as to what impeachment means even if it was not particularly defined in the section. Firstly, we can see that the house of representatives in the US is the one that impeaches, Secondly we can see that it does not mean removal yet in the US which is why the senate try’s the impeachment which we can reasonably believe to mean an allegation and Thirdly, we can safely infer that when the holder is found guilty of the allegation and judgement giving against him, the worst that can happen is a removal and withdrawal of benefits but such person would not be punished according to their law as far as the judgement was based on an Impeachment proceeding. Coming back to the usage of the word “impeachment” in our Nigerian Constitution, what can we deduce/infer from the Singular pronouncement? which was not followed by any sentence other than a comma indicating something different. If we continue to say that Impeachment can be used interchangeably with the word Removal or that the drafters rightly ascribed impeachment to mean removal hence undermining the difference presented to us by the presence of the punctuation indicating different circumstances that may warrant a discharge of function of the holder of Governor, then we may be free to use death & resignation interchangeably which will sound very absurd !
I am happy that i have been able to martial out my points from all what has been stated above but i am happier that my points and reasoning was expressed also by a distinguished jurist of the Nigerian Supreme Court, Niki Tobi JSC (as he then was) in the case of INAKOJU V. ADELEKE (2007) 4 NWLR (PT 1025) 423. In that case, 18 members out of 24 members of the Oyo state house of assembly converged in a hotel in Ibadan to remove the Governor Rashidi Ladoja. The 18 unscrupulous law makers commenced impeachment proceedings in the hotel and stood to declare the ‘official’ removal of the Governor from office. In the first relief, the plaintiffs/respondents claimed;
“A declaration that the purported Notice of allegation
Of misconduct made against His Excellency, Senator
Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja, the Governor of Oyo State
As a preparatory step to his impeachment by the defendants
Is unconstitutional, null and void, and no effect whatsoever,
Having regard to the provisions of Section 188(1) and (2) of
The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
The learned Jurist stated thus “Before i proceed to analyse the section, i should take a matter by the way and at large. It is the use of the word “impeachment”. The word is used freely and indiscriminately by the parties. The two courts also used the expression freely, though not indiscriminately. Where do they get the word in section 188 of the constitution, i ask? it is clear from the section i have stated above that there is no such word in the section. And so, i ask once again, where do all counsel and the courts get the word? Because i did not want to hide my ignorance (if it is an ignorance at all on the issue), i raised it during the hearing of the appeal. Mr Ayanlaja graciously called my attention to section 191 of the constitution where the word is used. That did not satisfy my query. The action was filed on the basis of section 188 and not on the basis of section 191(1). Section 191(1) merely provides that the deputy governor of a state “shall hold office of Governor of the state if the office of Governor becomes vacant by reason of death, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal of the Governor from office. In view of the fact that the action was brought under section 188, it is my view that the originating summons and all that follow by the way of other court processes and proceedings should honestly and loyally follow the wording of section 188”.
In making reference to the relief again, he stated “The point i have been struggling to make is clear from the above relief. Section 188(1) and (2) does not provide for the word “impeachment”. The appropriate word is removal, although section 188(1) contains the verb “removed”. In the circumstances, the first relief should have used the word “removal” in the place of “impeachment” …It is my view that the word should not be used as a substitute to the removal provisions of section 188. We should call spade its correct name of spade not machete because it is not one. The analogy here is that we should call the section 188 procedure one for the removal of Governor or Deputy Governor, not of Impeachment”.
It is my humble opinion and submission that people should refer to such removal process in the appropriate manner. They should not ascribe meaning to a word which the drafters omitted to define/expatiate. Also, there is utmost need for the National Assembly to look into the aforementioned provisions and make amendments/alterations in form of either defining or giving us a scenario to better understand what they meant by “impeachment” so as to avoid Speculations.
Carrington Osarodion Omokaro is based in Benin City, Edo State and can be reached via Omokarocarrington@Yahoo.Com 07088432549, 08129427602(Whatsapp).
- 1999 CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AS AMENDED 2010
- THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES
- BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY
- SYLVESTER UDEMEZUE – MEANING OF IMPEACHMENT: HOW PROF. FAROOQ KPEROGI DISPLAYED DOUBLE IGNORANCE IN HIS CONDEMNATION OF THE NIGERIAN MEDIA & LAW MAKERS