By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA — A Bill seeking absolute powers to solely initiate and execute impeachment proceedings against a sitting President to rest with the National Assembly Tuesday, scaled second reading on the floor of the House of Representatives.
The Bill is intended to amend section 143 of the 1999 Constitution.
Debate on the general principles of the Bill appeared as several members were of the opinion that it was not necessary.
Surprisingly, however, the Bill passed second reading when Deputy Speaker of the House, Emeka Ihedioha, who presided over plenary, put the question to voice votes.
Sponsors of the bill were of the opinion that it would remove “ambiguities in the process of removal of the President and Vice President from office on allegations of gross misconduct and provide for more transparent and democratic procedure for impeachment and other matters.”
Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provided for the procedure of impeaching the President and, or the Vice President.
But promoters of the amendment Bill, Mr. Yakubu Dogara and Chairman of the House Committee on the FCT, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, argued that there were a lot of defects and ambiguities in section 143 of the 1999 Constitution.
They also separately denied the assertion that the move was targeted at impeaching President Goodluck Jonathan.
Dogara, who quoted several foreign authorities to buttress the justification of vesting the powers to impeach a sitting President exclusively on the parliament, especially in America, argued that one of the defects in the provision was the only basis to initiate impeachment proceedings against the President, as enshrined in the constitution, was for “gross misconduct” which he said was not clearly defined.
In the opinion of Mr Jime, it was intended to address constitutional challenges that the lawmakers were finding difficult to challenge.
Section 143(11) reads; “In this section, ‘gross misconduct’ means a grave violation or breach of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.”