15 September 2012

Nigeria: Court Refuses to Stop Impeachment of President Jonathan

Photo: Vanguard
President Goodluck Jonathan.

Abuja — The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, declined request to stop the House of Representatives from commencing impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan.

The court presided by Justice Gabriel Kolawole ruled that "no single arm of government can constitute itself as an impediment to the exercise of constitutional powers by another arm of government."

Following moves by the lower legislative House to invoke its statutory powers and remove President Jonathan from office over his alleged lackadaisical attitude towards achieving 100 percent implementation of the 2012 budget, the National Chairman of the African Liberation Party, ALP, Dr. Emmanuel Okereke, approached the high court, asking it to stop the process.

In his ex-parte motion, Okereke who maintained that the impeachment threat was capable of heating up the polity unnecessarily, asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the House of Representatives "from harassing or further harassing the president with threats of impeachment or commencing any process of impeachment of the president for non-implementation of 100 percent of the budget."

Okereke, specifically, urged the court to among other things, determine whether "the constitution prescribed any time frame or date in each fiscal year within which to declare the budget as non-implemented?" He argued that the September 2012 deadline issued by the House for 100 percent implementation of the budget which is three months earlier than the end of year and six months from the end of the 2012 budget / fiscal year, was a disguise to cause political turmoil.

Consequently, he prayed the court to make an order, "prohibiting the President or the Executive arm of government from hurriedly executing any part of the budget when or where the circumstances at hand does not permit prudent execution of such," even as he also implored the court to ascertain if "upon proper reading and interpretation of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, whether any of its provision specified 100 percent implementation of the federal budget of Nigeria for each fiscal year as appropriated by National Assembly mandatory."

Joined as defendants in the suit were: Speaker of the House of Representatives, the House of Representatives itself, the National Assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and President Goodluck Jonathan.

In his ruling yesterday, presiding Justice Gabriel Kolawole, declined to grant the reliefs sought by Okereke until it was certain that there there was actually an impeachment proceeding before the legislative House.

"It will be a great disservice for the course of justice for me to summarily sit-back and give a bench ruling without giving adequate thought to the constitutional implication of what the ruling will bring. "By virtue of Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution, the powers to remove the fifth defendant (Jonathan) lie in the hands of the third defendant (National Assembly). The exercise of legislative powers to remove a President lie in their hands. However, no single arm of the legislature have unilateral powers to remove the fifth defendant (President).

Observing that the Senate was not made a party in the suit, Justice Kolawole, insisted that "the real and imminent urgency by which the court will intervene may not have been reached. Judicial powers must be exercised with caution so as not to exorcise the constitutional powers conferred on another organ of government.The court must be clearly certain that the process is on, and irreversible before it can intervene. The motion ex-parte is hereby refused."

Justice Kolawole however, ordered that the court processes be served on all the defendants, even as he adjourned the substantive matter sine-die, for the case-file to be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for re-assignment to another judge considering that he only entertained the matter as a vacation judge.

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