There was pandemonium at the Niger State House of Assembly in Minna on Tuesday when 21 lawmakers moved to impeach Governor Babangida Aliyu over the non-payment of their severance allowance and part of their February to April salaries.
Some of the legislators had arrived at the assembly but could not gain entry as the gates were locked by a detachment of police. But on learning of the development, many that were already seated in the chambers raced to the main gate and engaged the policemen in a hot argument.
“Are we prisoners? Did we beat anyone? Did we cause riot? Why should you lock us in? You people are trying to cause trouble when there is no trouble,” they shouted at the policemen.
When the policemen did not open the gate, the legislators went for stones which they used to break the padlock.
Before then, the policemen had opened the gate for the Clerk, Abdullahi Kagara, but disallowed a group of lawmakers and journalists from entering.
Some of the journalists who tried to enter with Kagara were molested by the policemen.
While a Nigerian Television Authority reporter, Suleiman Kodogi, and Samson Alfa of The Standard were hit physically, John Ogiji of The Guardian had his telephone smashed after pictures he had taken were deleted.
Enyioha Opara of The PUNCH lost his wristwatch during the incident.
When contacted on the telephone, the Police Public Relations Officer, Ibrahim Gambari, said there was no order barring journalists from entering the complex.
“The men at the assembly complex are on their own. We only asked them to ensure peace and orderliness and not to harass journalists. The Police have the mandate to have good working relationship with pressmen. We can not infringe on the right of journalists,” Gambari said.
As the 21 lawmakers out of the 25 lawmakers settled down to begin the session, they noticed that their leaders, including the speaker, Usman Adamu, were nowhere to be found.
Our correspondent in the state learnt the assembly leadership stayed away on learning of the plot to impeach the governor.
The Aliyu administration which tenure ends on May 29 is said to be owing the assembly members over N18m each as entitlements.
The Chairman of the assembly’s Business and Rule Committe, Abdullahi Akwanu, expressed surprise, saying that they had agreed after their executive meeting on Monday that the assembly should sit on Tuesday.
He said that it was regrettable that no leader of the House, including the speaker, was present.
At this point, he drew the attention of his colleagues to order 8 of the standing rule which provides that in the absence of the speaker without any reason, a speaker temporal should be appointed.
Consequently, a motion was moved by Usman Dada for the appointment of a speaker temporal.
Another lawamaker, Isah Kawu, immediately nominated Abdullahi Akwanu as the speaker temporal.
Thereafter, Dada told the assembly that the failure of their leadership to show up on Tuesday was embarrassing. He then moved for the removal of the assembly leadership.
After this, the speaker temporal called for the nomination of the new leadership of the house.
Dada immediately nominated Kawu as the new speaker. He was immediately sworn in by the clerk.
But Adamu described his removal as illegal.
He said, ‘We are still the leaders of the assembly. I am happy that they did not accuse any of us of financial mismanagement.
“Since January 2015, we have never received over head cost because of problems associated with federal account. Everybody is aware. I do not control finance, as it comes I disburse. So, the impeachment beats my imagination.
“Whatever you saw today (Tuesday) is illegal because the mace is under my custody. So whatever decision they took is illegal.
“Myself, my deputy, Abdulraham Gambo; the Chief Whip, Abdulahi Lawal, and the Majority Leader, Haruna Labaram, are still in charge. There are grudges that government has not done anything for us as expected.
“But we are making efforts to see what we can do about it. Sadly, we are hearing that they carried out an impeachment without any offence.”
On the governor, Adamu said, “What it means now is that Babangida Aliyu should get himself prepared because I advised him before hand on this matter. So, anything that comes out of it, he should get prepared.”
Lawmakers can’t impeach me, Chime boasts
In Enugu State, the assembly complex was under lock and key on Tuesday as new twists emerged in the plot to impeach Governor Sullivan Chime.
A team of riot policemen, which was positioned in front of the locked gates, prevented both staff and visitors from gaining access to the assembly.
The development forestalled what was expected to be a showdown between the two factions in the House – the pro-impeachment lawmakers led by the Speaker, Eugene Odoh and the anti-impeachment legislators.
The anti-impeachment legislators had on Monday sacked Odoh and elected Chinedu Nwamba as the new speaker.
However, there were indications that the lawmakers could not sit because they had to honour a ‘peace meeting’ called by the Governor-elect, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi.
The 24 members of the assembly, including both factions, held extensive deliberations with Ugwuanyi in his Enugu residence on Tuesday.
It was gathered that Ugwuanyi succeeded in brokering a truce between the two groups. He was said to have settled the disagreement between the aggrieved lawmakers and the governor.
It was gathered that a decision was taken to suspend the impeachment process, and also to take other steps to resolve the crisis in the assembly within two weeks.
Before the lawmakers met with the governor-elect on Tuesday, Chime had on Monday night boasted that the Odoh-led legislators could not impeach him.
The governor told journalists that he had not been served with an impeachment notice.
Chime, who cited portions of the 1999 Constitution to advance his argument, said he would have left the Government House for his village in Udi by the time the plot to impeach him could become effective.
Arguing that 14 out of 24 members of the assembly did not constitute the two-thirds majority stipulated in the constitution, he said, “I know what they are doing will never see the light of the day.
“The Office of the Governor is a very serious office, you don’t just wake up one morning and you start thinking about impeaching a governor.
“The section that deals with that is section 188 of the Constitution. It deals with how the governor or deputy governor may be removed from office.
“The first step is that at least one Third of the members of the House of Assembly are required to sign a notice of allegation of gross misconduct against the holder of the office, that is the governor or deputy governor. And they present it to the Speaker.’’