Elder Simon Achuba,
…Row over propriety of impeachment by lawmakers
By Boluwaji Obahopo, Lokoja
Penultimate Friday, Kogi State House of Assembly impeached the deputy governor of the state, Elder Simon Achuba.
Achuba’s impeachment followed the submission of the report of the panel of inquiry set up by Kogi State Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct levelled against him.
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Same day, the House announced the deputy governor’s impeachment after an emergency sitting.
Majority leader of the House, Bello Balogun (Ajaokuta, APC), said after the sitting, “House met, sat, deliberated on the recommendations of the panel to arrived at this conclusion. Henceforth, the deputy governor of the state, Simon Achuba, stands impeached”.
The report was in three volumes. Volume 1 contained all documents forwarded to the committee by the Chief Judge that he received from the House, and additional reports made available to the committee. Volume 2 contained the evidences given during the proceedings and volume 3 contained reviews of the committee and recommendations.
Committee Chairman had urged any interested persons to approach the right channel to obtain a copy if they desired, but declined to reveal the position of the committee, saying doing so was against the law.
Receiving the report, the Speaker of the House, Kolawole Matthew, had promised that the lawmakers will go through it thoroughly and do justice.
But barely four hours after receiving the report, the House impeached Achuba.
And 20 minutes later, the deputy governor’s official residence at the GRA Lokoja was sealed by policemen.
The policemen said they were acting on “instructions from above” and will permit him exit only if he left without official vehicles.
Achuba said he was treated like a common criminal.
“My official residence was barricaded by the police while electricity was disconnected same Friday. I went to put on the generator set, but it was also dismantled. All my property were locked up and I could not have access to my office or my official residence. All my cars were all locked up in government house too”, he lamented afterwards.
“The Kogi State Police Commissioner, CP Hakeem Busari, called me and told me to vacate my official residence despite the fact that I sent the soft copy of the panel report to him to let him know that I was not indicted”.
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Achuba, however, maintained that he remained deputy governor, stressing that the decision to impeach him was illegal.
According to him, any action taken to replace him would also be illegal as there cannot be two deputy governors in one state.
“The panel exonerated me. I was not found wanting, so why are they in hurry?, he said.
But the state Chief Judge, on Monday, swore-in Edward Onoja as the new deputy governor.
Achuba is a man with uncommon political fortunes. But as much fortunes he garnered, so also were his travails. Achuba came into political limelight in 2003 when he secured second term to the state House of Assembly. He was subsequently elected deputy speaker. But he had a raging battle at the House, leading to his impeachment. That tenure at the Assembly witnessed three Speakers with his name mentioned amongst those who removed the two that fell.
Fate smile on him again in 2012 when he was appointed as Chairman, Kogi State Environmental Protection Agency, KOSEPA, by former Governor Idris Wada.
Again, a cold war ensured between him and Wada. It was learnt that it took restraint on the part of the former governor not to relieve him of his position.
About one month to the November 3, 2015 governorship election in Kogi, Achuba decamped from PDP to APC to support the late Abubakar Audu who was then the candidate of APC in the election. Audu won, died and was replaced by Yahaya Bello as governor. Bello subsequently in February 2016 appointed Achuba as his deputy. His selection was said to have been based on the recommendation of then-former Chief of Staff (now deputy governor) to the governor, Onoja.
Though one cannot categorically say when the feud between him and his boss started, sources pointed to early 2017 when speculation was rife about a raging battle between them. The governor refuted the claim but Achuba kept mute.
Meanwhile, a pointer to a raging fire surfaced last November when Bello, while travelling out of the country, handed over power to Speaker Kolawole.
A letter suddenly emerged at the House purportedly signed by the deputy governor’s Chief of Staff requesting for a two months leave for his principal.
But the leave, which ought to terminate on January 26, 2019, amounted to nothing as Achuba was not seen in public or political scene again; neither did he enter his office.
Before the cold war, Achuba has some ministries to oversee, but his political appearances were curtailed to only burials and naming ceremonies on behalf of government.
And whereas billboards, posters and programs of state government carried the governor and his former Chief of Staff photos, the deputy governor picture was always absent.
Achuba himself described Onoja as a man who made him a king but removed the crown, beads and staff of office from him.
Rumour again surfaced in January 2019 when the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was to visit Kogi. Achuba was rumoured to use the occasion to announce his resignation as deputy governor. He was said to have been sighted in Abuja in the company of former Senate President, Bukola Saraki (then Atiku’s Presidential Campaign DG) where the deal for decamping was hatched. But that failed to happen. He and Bello continued their mouse and cat game.
But their silent war could no longer be kept secret when a week before the general elections, Achuba’s security details were withdrawn, prompting him to cry out for help. Two days later, the security details were restored.
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The battle, however, intensified on July 19 when Achuba, through his counsel, Mr Femi Falana (SAN), issued a seven-day ultimatum to the governor to pay him N800m withheld allowances since 2017; the case is still in court. This was followed by Achuba’s allegation 10 days later that Bello had sent gunmen after him, his family and aides. Government however denied the allegation.
The fallen deputy governor hinted that his rift with the governor started when he began to raise concerns about the lacklustre performance of the administration, stressing that his situation was made worse with the governor’s former Chief of Staff’s interest in replacing him. Achuba also called on President Muhammadu Buhari to beam his searchlight on Kogi over perceived political intolerance and insecurity. He said he visited the Presidency 10 times last year to call attention to the situation but all his efforts were not fruitful.
Not done, Achuba visited Channels Television and African Independent Television, AIT, where he accused Bello of not able to account for N58.3 billion allocated to Kogi.
The state government replied through the Director General, Media and Publicity, Kingsley Fanwo, that Achuba was doing opposition’s hatchet job.
A new twist was introduced into the imbroglio when Achuba’s kinsmen of Aluaja community in Iyano, Ibaji local government area called on the state government to release the White Paper on the panel of inquiry into the 2016/2017 Iyano crisis with a view to permanently resolving it.
The Iyano crisis between Alauja community and Abujaga, Iru had led to loss of lives and destruction of properties worth millions of naira. The report allegedly indicted Achuba.
Government had refused to act on it but now took advantage of the recent squabble to add the alleged indictment to the list of the impeached deputy governor’s sins.
Achuba’s impeachment notice was sequel to the petition signed by 21 of the 25 lawmakers in the Kogi Assembly. Majority leader of the House, Balogun, who read the petition, summarised it under three grounds of alleged criminal indulgence, financial misappropriation and non-performance.
Achuba was served the petition and given 21 days to respond. The House, after 21 days, asked the state Chief Judge to set up the judicial panel of inquiry.
Achuba secured a court order to stop the panel but the order was lifted a week later. The CJ inaugurated the panel on August 26, 2019 with maximum of 90 days to submit its report but did so in 49 days.
The allegations against Achuba were:
- Financial Misappropriation and Non-compliance with extant Financial Regulations and Fiscal Responsibility rules applicable in Kogi State.
- Deliberate Disdain for Decisions of the Kogi State Executive Council on Mode of Execution of Contracts.
- Abscondment from Office and Abandonment of Official Duties and Functions.
- Scandalisation of Kogi State and her people with gratuitous, wild and unsubstantiated allegations of crimes, and allegations of non-performance, brigandage and financial impropriety against the Governor, the Government of Kogi State and officials of Government.
- On July 19, 2019, the Deputy Governor caused his lawyers to write a letter of demand to the State Government demanding amongst other things, unpaid salaries when he had been paid.
6: The Indictment in Sponsorship of Communal Unrest, murder of Constituents and Displacement of Communities in lyano, Ibaji LGA, Kogi State.
Last week, a report surfaced online indicating that the impeachment did not find Achuba guilty on any of the allegations.
The controversy has lingered as the probe panel chairman, and the House continue to bicker over Achuba’s impeachment.
The Majority Leader accused the panel of inquiry of compromise on its assignment. According to him, the panel was just a fact-finding panel one and hence cannot pass judgment.
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“The decision of whether the deputy governor is guilty or not guilty is that of the House. If you look at Section 188(11), it says the House of Assembly is the only authority which determines what is gross misconduct. It is not for the panel to say proved or not proved”, Balogun said.
He questioned the interest of the panel chairman in the imbroglio, and challenged him to make public volume 3 of their report.
Achuba has, in the meantime, relocated to his private residence in Lokoja, the state capital. He has also petitioned President Buhari over his impeachment while heading to court to challenge the lawmakers’ action.
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