By Abel Daniel
The decision by the Nasarawa State PDP-controlled legislature to impeach Governor Umaru Tanko Almakura over a 16-count charge contained in an impeachment notice may have ended in a fiasco due to the interests of some PDP members whose ambition to contest the 2015 governorship election may be defeated if Almakura is impeached.
If the impeachment process had scaled through, the deputy governor, Dameshi Luke, would have been sworn in as governor pending when a fresh election would be conducted. This created fear for those eyeing the governorship position come 2015 who may find it hard to defeat Luka.
Sources told our correspondent in Lafia that there is division right now among some members of the PDP in Nasarawa over the Almakura impeachment move. Whereas a group is pleading with the assembly to end the impeachment process on the grounds that the action may lead to violence and chaos in the state, another group insists that Almakura must be impeached so that the world will know that the state does not support corrupt leadership while the impeachment may also caution those who may be tempted to tread the path of gross misconduct and financial mismanagement of state funds.
According to the spokesperson of the Assembly, Hon. Baba Ibaku, “If we don’t pursue this impeachment to its logical conclusion, our people in our constituencies and the world will never take us serious. More so Almakura and his followers would assume they are untouchable, after all, the Assembly could not even check them”.
Meanwhile, Almakura and his APC supporters in the state have continued to celebrate the dismissal of the impeachment allegations by the seven-man panel which investigated him for want of evidence to prove the claims contained in the impeachment notice filed by the Assembly.
Almakura, who lauded the allegations dismissal in an interview with journalists in Lafia, described the outcome of the panel as a victory for democracy.
The governor said, “My victory is for the rule of law. I am sure the people of goodwill and the people of Nasarawa State, even without coming to the tribunal, know who the governor is and what he could do and what he can or cannot do. My vindication is for the good people of Nasarawa State.”
While dedicating the victory to the people of the state, he urged them to be on the right path of the law. He also commended the role played by his legal experts.
In a related development, there was a drama on Thursday in Lafia when PDP supporters in the state massively embarked on a rally to express their support for the move by the Assembly to impeach Almakura. However supporters of APC in a counter protest sprinkled water on some major streets of Lafia and used brooms to sweep the foot prints of the PDP supporters, saying “we don’t want EBOLA in Nasarawa State”.
The Nasarawa assembly earlier on Tuesday rejected the verdict of the panel set up by the state Chief Judge to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct levelled against the governor. The lawmakers also insisted that they would go ahead with their plan to impeach Almakura.
The panel had cleared the governor of all the charges after the lawmakers refused to show up and prove their allegations against him.
The Assembly’s opposition to the panel’s verdict was made known in Abuja by Mohammed Ibaku, the House Committee Chairman on Information.
He said that the Assembly had expressed reservations over the composition of the committee and would therefore not recognize any decision taken by it.
“We want to bring to the notice of Nigerians that the Nasarawa State House of Assembly totally dissociates itself from the decision reached by the panel set by the Chief Judge of the state which has cleared the governor of allegations levelled against him by the House”, the spokesperson said.
“As far as the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is concerned, the governor is yet to be exonerated of the charges levelled against him; we are not going to go to court because the matter is a constitutional matter that cannot be resolved by any court.
“We will take a firm position on the matter in due course but we will follow the Constitution; we will not act outside the Constitution but be assured that the impeachment process is still on course”.
He alleged that the actions and activities of the panel were illegal and a gross violation of the Constitution of Nigeria.
According to the Assembly’s spokesman, some people want to “cook and eat the law” and it will not be accepted.
The lawmaker dismissed reports that the Assembly had dragged the governor to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, noting that he had dragged himself to the anti-graft agency. He also said that the Assembly would not join issues with the state Chief Judge on his refusal to reconstitute the probe panel at the behest of the House.
“The governor has taken himself to the EFCC already; the House does not need to drag him to the anti-graft body; by his actions he has taken himself to court already.
“The House will not join issues with the Chief Judge; we will allow the law to take its course on matters relating to his conduct. For now, we are focused on the issue of the impeachment and not the conduct of the Chief Judge”.
In another development, PDP stakeholders in Nasarawa State have expressed support for the position of the lawmakers.
Their position was contained in a communiqué signed by 84 members of the stakeholders’ forum after its meeting on Tuesday.
“On behalf of the leaders and members of the PDP in Nasarawa State, we strongly reaffirm our support and solidarity for the constitutional actions carried out by members of the House of Assembly in respect of the ongoing impeachment process”, the communiqué stated.
It called on security agencies to provide adequate security for the legislators in the course of discharging their duties and urged members of the public to remain law abiding.
It, however, stated that the party would resist attempts by the APC “to undermine the ongoing democratic process in the state”.
Also, last week, Nasarawa APC blamed the botched impeachment move against Almakura on the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, and a former governor, Alhaji Akwe Doma, and called on the people of the state to resist “the selfish ambition of any one who may want to set the state ablaze using the Assembly to remove Almakura”.