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Nigeria Impeachment Stirs Controversy


Heavily armed anti-riot police, backed by soldiers, are maintaining a high profile presence in Jos, capital of Nigeria's Plateau State, a day after legislators removed the governor. Some of Nigerias leading legal experts have condemned the impeachment.

The Nigeria Bar Association has strongly denounced Joshua Dariyes' impeachment, describing it as in total violation of the Nigerian constitution.

Bar association General Secretary, Lawal Rabana, says the fact that only six out of 24 lawmakers passed the impeachment resolution is evidence that it was was blatantly illegal.

"To us, it is like a total disregard for constitutional provisions," said Rabana. "The constitution requests that members of the Plateau State are 24 and it has to be two-thirds of that 24 that can do what they have done. Therefore, it is unacceptable to us."

So far, five Nigerian state governors have been impeached in very controversial circumstances that seem to suggest a campaign to tighten President Olusegun Obasanjo's grip on power, ahead of elections in April - a charge the president denies.

All impeached governors are said to be opponents of the president. And, in all instances, the constitutionally-defined impeachment process was breached.

Rabana says Nigeria is flirting with anarchy, in the frenzy to remove supposedly corrupt politicians.

"It is in the interest of the police, it is in the interest of the presidency that the rule of law prevails in this country, otherwise there will be anarchy," he said. "We are heading towards anarchy and, when anarchy comes, the police cannot curtail it, the presidency cannot curtail it."

The impeached governors are accused of corruption. The former governor of Plateau was arrested by London police in 2004, in possession of more than $1 million. He jumped bail by fleeing to Nigeria.

The governments anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes and Commission, declined to comment on the legality of the methods employed in removing supposedly corrupt leaders. But EFCC spokesman Osita Nwajah could not hide his enthusiasm over the latest impeachment and the role played by the six legislators.

"I think people should be celebrating them, not haranguing them. They have done a very right thing. So, the EFCC is very happy," he said. "We applaud those members of the Plateau State House of Assembly, who did what was right. We want to take it from there. They have given us a legal platform to conclude the matter that we started in 2004."

Analysts say the impeachments could be a ploy to cause tensions and chaos across Africas most populous country, giving a pretext for Mr. Obasanjo to declare a wider state of emergency and postpone elections.