• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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When lawmakers’ ignorance of law backfired in Adamawa

Last Wednesday was a day of reckoning for the 25-member Adamawa House of Assembly, and particularly the sacked acting governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, as their ignorance of basic procedural constitutional provision threw them into a huge mess.

In a dramatic turn of events, a Federal High Court in Abuja Wednesday ordered that Bala Ngilari, former deputy governor of the state, be sworn in as the governor of the state. As a result, a bye-election scheduled for yesterday, October 11, 2014, to fill the seat made vacant by the impeachment of Murtala Nyako could not hold.

Speaking on the development, a respected member of the party in the state said that members of the state House of Assembly were rather blinded by the drive to remove Nyako to the point that they refused to appropriately consult the Constitution to avoid throwbacks.

“You know, Honourable Ngilari was ill-treated and sidelined by Murtala Nyako from the point he (Ngilari) refused to decamp with the governor to the APC. So, he was sidelined,” the party chieftain who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

“During the activities leading up to the impeachment by the House of Assembly, the lawmakers knew that Ngilari was innocent and was not their target, but at the same time they did not want to leave him in office. So, they forced him to resign, a form of soft landing. They did not take into cognisance the provisions of the constitution on that. Ngilari has done nothing wrong, but the power that be wanted Nyako out by all means,” he added.

On the implication of the development, the politician further said the swearing in of Honourable Ngilari as the governor had set the records straight.

“The PDP zoning arrangement for the 2015 election will be invalid. As it stands, Ngilari, who is now a full-fledged governor, not acting, will be there till May 2015 and is also free to contest for the seat afresh. So, everything that had been done by PDP on the basis of Fintiri as acting governor can no longer stand. Everything that was done in that circumstance has to be disregarded,” he said.

How the drama began

Ngilari had filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking an order compelling his swearing in as the governor of the state. He had asked the court to declare his resignation letter dated July 14, 2014 and addressed to the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, as illegal, null and void.

The court ruled that the purported resignation of Ngilari on July 14, 2014 was invalid, null and void as it breached the provisions of sections 306(1), (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution because it was addressed to the Speaker and acted upon by the House of Assembly.

The former deputy governor had argued that his resignation letter was in breach of the provisions of sections 306(1), (2) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution because it was addressed to the Speaker and acted upon by the House of Assembly.

So, after a careful study of the prayer made to the court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola delivered a judgment. He ruled that Ngilari’s letter was written at a time when Nyako had not been removed, thus implying that the letter ought to have gone through Nyako as then governor, which it did not, thus rendering the resignation null and void.

He therefore ruled that Ngilari be sworn in as the substantive governor of the state.

Onyekachi Ubani, former chairman, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ikeja branch, said the development was commendable. He also commended the prompt response by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mohammed Bello Adoke, accepting the judgment.

“What the Federal Government did in Adamawa’s case is highly commendable, and we must learn to commend when there is need for it. We are part of the global village, and as a result we must begin to do things the right way. We must begin to cultivate the habit of obeying court orders,” Ubani said.

Why PDP, presidency accepted judgment

BD SUNDAY gathered that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as well as the Presidency could not appeal the ruling because they both consider it unnecessary since Ngilari is still in the party.

A source, who claimed to be privy to the thinking of the ruling party at the highest level, on the matter, said: “The PDP felt there was no need appealing the ruling because head or tail the party wins. The leadership of the party considers Ngilari as a loyal party member who did not dump the party along with Nyako; so, there was no basis to disobey the ruling of the court. Again, the Presidency was also comfortable with the ruling.”

But Tunde Kolawole, a legal practitioner, accused the presidency of selective respect for the rule of law. According to him, it was curious for the Federal Government that has not openly condemned the invasion of the court and assault of judges in Ekiti State by hoodlums, to have reacted abruptly to the development in Adamawa.

Ngilari laughs last

A pundit said that Ngilari must have scored the bull’s eye on the back of his knowledge as a lawyer. It is believed that he ambushed the legislators who manifested obvious ignorance of constitutional provision on procedures for resignation of deputy governor.

“There was a lot of horse-trading in Adamawa when the crisis was on; so as a lawyer, he decided to ambush the House. Again, Festus Keyamo must have made his prayers very well by insisting that his client must be sworn in immediately, leaving Fintiri with no chance to get injunction to stop the exercise,” an analyst said.

The pundit also described Ngilari’s victory as reward for patience.

“I will describe the development as a reward for patience. The man was patient. I could imagine what he went through in the hands of his former boss, Nyako, and his cronies because of his refusal to follow him to APC. It also shows how principled the man is. In a country where people go after material things, he could have followed Nyako to APC to continue to be in the man’s good book, but he chose to remain alone. This also teaches that majority is not always right; it is dangerous to follow the multitude,” he said.

The pundit, however, expressed worry that the new governor may abandon the job of governance in pursuit of self-preservation.

“I foresee a situation where Ngilari will focus more on politics than on economic development of the state. You know he will be trying to consolidate to enable him have a firm grip of the state. What he is going to do now is pure self-preservation. Within the eight months he will be there, he will have fortified himself so well that he will be formidable enough to stand election in 2015,” the pundit said.

Kolawole shared the view when he said: “The political future of Adamawa may suffer a little bit. What they have playing there is politics of opportunism. The sacked acting governor has done his own political harvest; the current governor has come for his own harvest.”

Fintiri the biggest loser

BD SUNDAY gathered that the PDP may have swiftly accepted judgment because of the posturing of the sacked acting governor.

“Up till the time the judgment was delivered Wednesday, the PDP as a party was not comfortable with the man called Fintiri. The full trust was not there, particularly when it was being rumoured that the man had determined to go against the zoning arrangement of the party in 2015. Fintiri was said to have made up his mind to run in 2015. His ambition is consuming,” a party member from the state said.

“Again, the way the man was going about his style of leadership had already created an impression in some quarters that he may not have been better than Nyako if he stayed in power for four years. For instance, within two weeks of his becoming acting governor he appointed a retinue of special advisers. It was obvious he had something up his sleeves. That’s why there was celebration all over the state when he was removed,” he added.

Although Fintiri comes from same zone with Ngilari, legal practitioners say he still has the constitutional right to return to the House of Assembly, but there are divergent opinions as the time of filing this report, if he can still pick up his speakership position.

The argument in some quarters is that it may not be possible for the governor and speaker of the House to come from same zone; however, some others argue that law does not recognise internal arrangements of political parties.

“The status quo should remain. If the court has ruled that Ngilari should be governor, Fintiri can still go back to the House as speaker. But he may need to go back to court to argue that out,” a legal practitioner said.

BD SUNDAY gathered that the commissioners he appointed are now jittery over their fate. It was learnt that members of the House of Assembly were badly hit as their hope of receiving N2.5million allegedly approved for each member by Fintiri was dashed by the unexpected judgment.

Zebulon Agomuo