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Can Nigeria's Attorney General Nullify Impeachment of a State Governor?


Nigeria’s Attorney General Bayo Ojo has declared attempts to impeach the Governor of Ekiti State, Peter Ayodele Fayose, unconstitutional. To set the impeachment process in motion, the Ekiti State Chief Judge Kayode Bamisile was removed over the weekend by legislators from Ekiti’s State House of Assembly and replaced by an Acting Justice Jide Aladejana. In turn, the Acting Justice allowed the State House of Assembly to meet in emergency session to impeach Governor Fayose and his Deputy, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, on corruption charges. But observers are not sure if that will be the last word on the removal, or where challenges to the nation’s governing process are headed next. Banker and political writer Lamido Sanusi, who serves as Executive Director of the First Bank of Nigeria, sorts out the complex political maneuvers of the past few days in Ekiti State for VOA English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser.

“I suppose it’s all touch and go now, and we have a major legal crisis. On the one hand, the Attorney General, I don’t think, can pronounce anything illegal. The courts will have to decide whether it is legal or illegal. For now the question is which court is going to decide. The House of Assembly suspended the Chief Judge of the State. Was the Chief Judge appointed by the House of Assembly accepted as illegal? It’s a process that was started by the (Federal) Government, and now it has gotten out of control,” he said.

Lamido Sanusi says that without question, the succession of events in Ekiti has run contrary to the law and its constitutional provisions.

“Essentially, the House wanted to impeach the Governor, and the process saw the Chief Justice (Bamisile) appoint a panel that would investigate the charges against the Governor (Fayose) and the Deputy Governor (Olujimi), and then if indicted, the House would adopt a report. Now, what the Governor did was get the Chief Justice apparently, to appoint a panel made up of members who are his friends and contractors, who are benefiting from the system. So the House decided that that panel was not going to give the report that it wanted to have. And it decided to suspend the Chief Judge and then appoint a new Chief Judge, who then appointed a panel that then gave the House a report it wanted, which it then adopted and impeached both of them (Fayose and Olujimi). It’s a ridiculous process of abuse of power, and it got out of control,” said Sanusi. “I believe the decision will be reversed and the Governor will be, at least in theory, reinstated for the few months. But what I don’t know is will reinstatement bring peace to the State, given the kind of situation on the ground at the moment.”

With 31 of Nigeria’s 36 state governors targeted for investigation by the Abuja government’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), corrupution issues are slated to play a major role in next April’s presidential campaign.

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