Over the past week, the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives, Kingsley Chinda from Rivers State has repeatedly called for the impeachment of President Muhamadu Buhari.
He hinged his decision on the security situation in the country.
Chinda in a statement on the 7th of December had called on the Federal Executive Council to invoke section 144(1) by declaring the President incapacitated to discharge the duties of his office and also called on Nigerians to compel their representatives to commence impeachment process.
On the 17th of July, Mr Chinda again called for the impeachment of the President following the recent abduction of 333 students of Government Secondary School, Kankara, in Katsina State.
He also declared that his party will challenge the position of the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami on his claim that the National Assembly has no powers to summon the President.
It would be recalled that the House following the gruesome murder of 43 farmers in Borno by Boko Haram invited President Buhari to brief the House on the security situation in the country. Buhari later declined after initially agreeing to brief the joint session of the National Assembly.
Malami in a press statement claimed that the National Assembly has no powers to summon the President, citing section 218 of the 1999 constitution.
Analysis: The Position of the constitution on impeachment
Sections 143 and 144 provide the process for the impeachment of the President. Chinda in his two calls for impeachment called for invoking of the two sections.
Impeachment by the National Assembly
Section 143 of the 1999 constitution provides the steps for impeaching the President and the Vice President by the National Assembly for ‘gross misconduct’.
Here is a simple summary of the process. First, 1/3 (157) of the entire members of the National Assembly must sign a notice of allegation of “gross misconduct” which must be presented to the Senate President.
Copy of the notice within 7days is to be sent to the President and every member of the National Assembly. Within Another 14days after serving the President, with or without the reply of the President, then the motion to investigate the president must again be passed by 2/3 majority of each chamber of the National Assembly. That is, a motion of the investigation must be moved in the House and the Senate separately. For the motion to pass in the House, 240 members must support it, and 73 senators must also support it.
If the motion should pass in the two chambers, then the Senate President will ask the Chief Justice of the Federation to set up a panel of 7 persons who according to section 143 (5) must be “of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party.” The CJN will have to decide who passes these qualities.
The panel will investigate the allegation against the president within 90days and submit its report to each chamber of the National Assembly. If the panel should find the President guilty, then each chamber must within 14days again vote by 2/3 majority to adopt the report. The adoption of the report means the President is hereby impeached.
Present Political reality of impeachment
Chinda is not the Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. He lost the position to Ndudi Eumelu, who is officially the Minority Leader recognized by the National Assembly. The PDP which is the major opposition is divided in the House between Chinda and Elumelu. The APC in the House continues to gain more members to increase its majority in the House.
Also, the Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila are both allies of the President and have repeatedly declared their commitment to protecting the interest of the President.
Furthermore, the current CJN, Justice Ibrahim Tanko will be saddle with the responsibility of determining the selection of the panel, with discretionary powers to determine their neutrality.
Section 144 (5) reads: “Within 7days of the passing of the passing of a motion, the Chief justice of Nigeria shall at the request of the President of the Senate appoint a panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not members of any public service, legislative House, or political party, to investigate the allegation as provided by this section.”
Lastly, the possibility of getting 2/3 majority of all members in each chamber twice looks impossible considering that the House is prone to rowdy sessions at the slightest provocation. This perhaps explains while Chinda is asking Nigerians to prevail on their lawmakers.
And there is the long period of time involved in the process, and the possibility of litigation in the process.
Impeachment by the Federal Executive Council
The Federal Executive Council which refers to the body of ministers appointed by the President can also remove the president on the ground of “incapable to discharge functions of the office.”
The council in a resolution passed by 2/3 majority of the members can kick-start the process of removal from the office. Following the resolution of FEC, the Senate President will constitute a medical panel to determine if the “president is suffering from infirmity of body and mind.”
The panel will comprise of 5 medical practitioners appointed by the Senate President and 1 of them must be the personal doctor of the President. The president can only be removed if the panel should certify that indeed the president is suffering from deformity that can prevent him from discharging his office.
A copy of the certification will be sent to the Senate President and Speaker. After it has been published on the official gazzete, the President stand removed.
Political realities of Federal executive council
The body is made up of ministers appointed by the President, serving at the pleasure of the President, and stand removed at the discretion of the President.
Aso, the Senate President will also have discretionary powers to determine the composition of the medical personnel to determine the state of health of the President.
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