14 September 2012

Nigeria: Impeachment - Court to Rule On Suit to Stop House of Reps Today

Photo: Vanguard
President Goodluck Jonathan.

A Federal High Court in Abuja will today rule on whether or not to stop the House of Representatives from going ahead with the plan to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan for non-implementation of budget.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole reserved ruling for today after listening to an ex parte application filed by the National Chairman of African Liberation Party (ALP), Dr. Emmanuel Osita Okereke.

Counsel to the plaintiff/ applicant, Alex Williams, had while moving the application prayed the court to grant an interim order restraining the House from proceeding with the impeachment as it was capable of distracting the president from discharging his duties.

William argued that his client planned to contest for the office of presidency in 2015 and that if the proceeding to impeach the president was allowed to go on, it would create chaos.

However, Justice Kolawole said he needed time to study the processes to enable him deliver his ruling.

The defendants in the suit are the Speaker of the House of Representatives; the House of Representatives, the National Assembly; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice and President Goodluck Jonathan.

In his affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff stated that the move to impeach the president for non-implementation of 100 per cent of the 2012 budget in July 2012 was heating up the polity.

Besides he averred that the September deadline issued by the House for 100 per cent implementation of the budget which is three months earlier than the end of 2012 calendar year and six months from the end of the 2012 budget/fiscal year, was a disguise to cause political turmoil.

While arguing the application, Justice Kolawole said he was not sure the impeachment process could lead to chaos.

He said the constitution governed impeachment and that if it was based on any ground that was not supported by law, it would collapse.

He said: "Am not a politician. I will not convert my chamber to an alternative chamber of the National Assembly. I don't see any reason for chaos. You are only trying to create panic."

But Williams stood his ground saying that non-implementation of the budget 100 per cent when the fiscal year has not ended was not a ground for impeachment.

He stated that except the court stopped the lawmakers, their counterparts in states might follow suit.

The plaintiff in his originating summons posed nine questions for the determination by the court part of which are: "Upon proper reading and interpretation of the 1999 Constitution as amended, whether any provision made 100 per cent implementation of the federal budget for each fiscal year as appropriated by National Assembly mandatory.

*Upon proper reading and interpretation of the 1999 Constitution as amended, whether the National Assembly is empowered to impeach the president from office for failure to implement the budget by 100 per cent for any given fiscal year?

* Whether the constitution prescribed any time frame or date in each fiscal year within which to declare the budget as non-implemented?

He averred that if the above questions are answered in his favour, then the court should proceed to grant the following reliefs: a declaration that the moves by the National Assembly to impeach the president for not fully implementing the 2012 budget is premature, abuse of legislative powers, malevolent, unconditional, null and void.

He also wants the to make an order of perpetual injunction restraining the leadership of the National Assembly from impeaching the president over the implementation of the budget as appropriated and an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from harassing or further harassing the president with threats of impeachment or commencing any process of impeachment against the president over the implementation of the budget.

In addition, he also sought an order prohibiting the president or the executive from hurriedly executing any part of the budget when/where the circumstances at hand does not permit prudent execution of such.

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