It was widely reported that the Imo State House of Assembly impeached or purportedly impeached the Deputy Governor of Imo State. Consequent upon the alleged impeachment, Governor Rochas Okorocha appointed a new Deputy Governor who is yet to be sworn in as a result of Judicial intervention. Report has it that the Governor has finally summersaulted to obey the Order of Court which ordinarily should have frustrated the commencement of the impeachment process. In view of this latest development, certain pertinent questions are begging for answers.
1. Who is the Deputy Governor of Imo State?
2. Can a Governor operate in a State without a Deputy Governor?
The aforementioned questions cannot be rightly answered without recourse to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 ( As Amended )
The present scenario in Imo State appears very unique in Nigeria political history. The facts are very clear. Imo State Deputy Governor has been impeached. A new Deputy Governor has been appointed. However, the latter cannot assume duties and constitutional responsibilities of a Deputy Governor because there is an existing Court Order stoping the alleged impeachment process.
A careful perusal of the express provisions of our Constitution reveals that there is no Deputy Governor in Imo State. This is one side of the argument. And the legal implication is that the Governor should step aside pending the appointment of a new Deputy Governor who must be sworn in according the provisions of our Constitution. In fortification of this line of argument, let us reproduce the provisions of our supreme law. Section 188(9) of the Constitution says:
” ……..and if by a resolution of the House of Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.”
If it is true that the House of Assembly of Imo State followed the Constitutional procedure as stipulated under section 188 of our Constitution and indeed moved the Chief Judge of the State to set up a Panel that forwarded a report that was adopted by the House, it simply means that the impeachment was successful. The adoption of the report of the Panel by the House automatically removed the Deputy Governor as can be gleaned from sub section 9 of section 188 of our Constitution cited above.
And when such adoption is made by the House pursuant to sub section 9 above, sub section 10 of the same section provides that no COURT should entertain any matter relating to the impeachment process. For clarity, hear our laws:
” No proceedings or determination of the Panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any Court.” In other words, the adoption of the report is the final decision of the House which cannot be litigated upon in any Court in Nigeria. The implication is that the holder of such office ceases to be the holder of that office. It therefore implies that the Governor, who has agreed to obey the Order of Court by not swearing the new Deputy Governor, is operating without a Governor at all.
This therefore leads us to the second question as to whether a Governor can operate without a Deputy. This question is very clear. There can never be a Governor without a Deputy Governor. We can trace this down to section 187(1) of the same Constitution. For clarity, that provision says:
“……… a candidate for the office of Governor of a State shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of the Governor, who is to occupy the office of the Deputy Governor……. This among other relevant sections of our law point to the fact that a Governor cannot operate without a Deputy Governor.
But looking at the facts surrounding the impeachment process from another angle, one needs no soothsayer to conclude that the impeachment was a mere exercise in futility. A Deputy Governor cannot be impeached without the Chief Judge of the State setting up a Panel that will comprise persons who in his own opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party. ( See section 188(5) of our Constitution ).
Report has it that there was an Order of Court restraining the Members from continuation of the impeachment process or restraining the Chief Judge from setting up the Panel. In so far as there was an Order of Court before the conclusion of the purported impeachment process, those that masterminded the impeachment cannot take benefit of section 188 (9) & (10).
The resultant effect is that the Deputy Governor- Madumere remains the Deputy Governor of Imo State and must be treated as such with all constitutional rights and privileges attached to the office of the Deputy Governor. Failure to treat him as such, the Governor’s continued stay in that office without a Deputy Governor is illegal. Having decided to uphold the rule of law by obeying the sacred Order of Court, he should reinstate his Deputy Governor and declare the action of his Legislature a horrible practice in our modern day democracy.
Barr Ugochukwu Amaraizu is the Secretary of Obingwa Local Government Area in Abia State