Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) warned that there would be consequences should the popular will of Benue people be thwarted using crude police tactics to hoodwink Benue lawmakers to impeach the governor.
This is as the Southern and Northern Leaders Elders Forum in a statement noted: “This is a throwback to full-blown dictatorship and the dark days of putting human beings in crates.
We want to let President Buhari know in advance that he will be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order in Benue and any possible loss of lives.”
More political stalwarts may catch a cold if the 2019 elections continue to blow a gale of impeachments across the landscape.
While some are already sniffing hard, others have simply succumbed to the weather’s intrigues.
Yesterday, 19 of 27 lawmakers impeached Imo State Deputy Governor Eze Madumere over alleged misconduct, replacing him with Head of Service Callistus Ekenze.
The action defied a July 30 ruling by Justice Ben Iheka of the state High Court, which restrained the legislators and the Chief Judge, Paschal Nnadi, from proceeding with the impeachment, pending hearing and determination of the matter.
Madumere had enjoined a good working relationship with Governor Rochas Okorocha. But things turned sour after he decided to succeed his principal.
Okorocha is backing his brother-in-law and Chief of Staff, Chuks Ololo, as next governor.
Also, political intrigues in Benue State took a dramatic twist yesterday as eight members of the 30-strong House of Assembly declared they would begin moves to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom.
The governor last week defected from the APC to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Terkimbi Ikyange, Speaker until he was impeached last week, told reporters in Makurdi that a notice would be served on Ortom “within seven days”.
He had rejected his own impeachment, describing it as “an act of illegality”.
He argued that it did not follow due process because the lawmakers sat while the House was on recess.
Chief Judge of Benue State, Adam Onum, last week, restrained Ikyange from parading himself as Speaker, pending the determination of a suit filed by some lawmakers.
Ikyange said the plan to remove Ortom was prompted by anger over an alleged misappropriation of N54 billion.
But the faction that impeached Ikyange described the notice as “illegal”.
The lawmakers, who were forced to use the Old Banquet Hall, Makurdi, having been denied access to the Assembly complex, said the members behind the plot did not form the required quorum.
In a motion dismissing the impeachment plan, Majority Leader of the House, Avine Agbum, insisted Ikyange has been suspended for six months and moved for the suspension of all the members who attended the session where the notice was discussed.
Reacting, Ortom said: “Eight lawmakers claim to have suspended 22 members.
The same members without forming a quorum claim to illegally move a motion to serve an impeachment notice on me.
This is not the Nigeria we are yearning for. This is not the kind of democracy we are talking about.”
The Kano State House of Assembly yesterday also impeached its Speaker, Alhaji Abdullahi Atta.
In his place, it re-elected Alhaji Kabiru Rurum, the immediate past Speaker impeached over allegations of corruption.
Two other Principal Officers were also removed.
The Assembly closed two months ago following threats to impeach the Speaker. But the storm quieted after intervention by the state government.
“I was not aware of what was going on at the state Assembly.
Top members of our great party informed me that the members of the House have impeached the Speaker.
As you know, there have been and there would be different interpretations to what has happened. But one thing is certain.
We, in Kano, believe in internal democracy,” said Governor Abdullahi Ganduje.
Rurum, who led a delegation of the lawmakers to Government House, Kano, expressed gratitude for the opportunity given him to yet again lead the House. He noted that the members would continue to work with the governor for the peace and progress of the state.
He assured Ganduje that there would be no defection by the members and those efforts were being made to win over six members belonging to the Kwankwansiyya group.
The Speaker also restated support for the second term ambitions of Ganduje and President Muhammadu Buhari and pledged loyalty to the APC and National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole.
The Kwankwansiyya group is led by the former governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, who has been engaged in running battles with Ganduje, his estranged political beneficiary.
Analysts say Ganduje’s deputy and Kwankwaso supporter, Hafiz Abubakar, could soon suffer the fate that befell Atta.
An alleged plot to ease Senate President Bukola Saraki from his position last week got the nation watching a suspenseful siege on his residence and a climactic defection of dozens of federal lawmakers later that day.
Saraki is widely believed to be the arrowhead of a breakaway faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
While he still remains Senate President, alleged moves to displace him have reportedly not abated.
Also, last week in Ekiti State, the PDP was forced to issue a statement condemning alleged moves by some members of the state House of Assembly to impeach Governor Ayodele Fayose.
The governor’s desire to be succeeded by his deputy, Kolapo Olusola Eleka, failed two weeks ago as APC’s Kayode Fayemi and former Minister of Mines and Steel Development coasted home to victory.
Reacting to the planned impeachment of Ortom, Saraki and his House of Representatives counterpart, Yakubu Dogara, described it as “desecration of the legislative sanctity”.
“We have monitored closely the development in Benue State in which the impeached Speaker, Terkimbir Ikyange, led seven other members to serve an impeachment notice on the state governor, Samuel Ortom, while the 22 other members who constitute more than two-thirds majority have been prevented from having access to the chamber.
We believe this is illegality and does not conform to the parliamentary procedure on impeachment.
“We also note with surprise the role of the police in this undemocratic event in which the minority is seeking to impeach a governor against the position of the majority.
We believe it is the sacred institution of the legislature that is being desecrated and rubbished in all these negative developments.
“The situation in Benue State House of Assembly has grave implication for the nation’s democracy and it represents a throw-back to the period of dictatorship in our country.
It also represents how the Nigeria Police are being misused to achieve a political end.
In a statement recently, the Presidency derisively referred to an era in the past where a minority number of legislators was used to impeach governors who were unfriendly with the Federal Government.
What we are seeing in Benue now is a return to that inglorious era,” the statement reads.
It adds: “We believe this unlawful and unconstitutional move to impeach Governor Samuel Ortom by a minority should be condemned by all lovers of democracy, at home and abroad.
We call on President Mohammadu Buhari to call the police to order and prevent a breakdown of law and order.
We also call on friends of Nigeria in the international community to lend their voice in condemning the perpetration of illegalities and actions that can subvert our democracy.
“There is already a tense atmosphere in Benue State following the recent killings. Nobody should encourage any action or move which may exacerbate the security situation in the North Central State.
But in a swift reaction, Presidency on Tuesday said there was no truth in the claims that President Muhammadu Buhari has a hand in the move by minority members of the Benue State House of Assembly to remove the state governor, Samuel Ortom.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, said this in a statement made available to journalists.
Adesina said Buhari would never be part of any unconstitutional act. He added that any attempt to link the President with the inglorious past, when minority number of lawmakers removed governors, will not stick.
The statement read, “Even while attending the ECOWAS/ECCAS Summit in Togo, strident attempts were being made to drag President Muhammadu Buhari into the unfolding drama between the executive and the legislature in Benue State.
“Statements have been issued by different interest groups, insinuating that the President may have a hand in the development in Benue. “This is paranoia at its worst, coming from people who have wittingly positioned themselves against the clean-up of the country, and the way we do things. They prefer business as usual.
“President Buhari will never be part of any unconstitutional act, and any attempt to link him with the inglorious past, when minority number of lawmakers impeached governors, will not stick. It will simply be like water off the duck’s back.
“Those with open minds know this, but those who cavil would rather source everything untoward to the President. It is murky ground in which they are now marooned, as a fallout of their resistance to change in the country.
“When it suits them, they preach separation of powers and true federalism, and in another breath, they call on the President to interfere brazenly in affairs at the state level.
“President Buhari will always stand by all that is noble and fair and will reject attempts to drag him into infamy.
“As leaders of the federal legislature, we are ready to work with our colleagues in both chambers of the National Assembly to prevent any attempt to destroy any state legislature or use it to derail democracy.”