Impeaching a sitting Governor of a State in Nigeria is a very serious matter. It is serious not simply because it amounts to effectively ‘sacking’ the number one citizen of the State in question, but also because it amounts to reversing the decision of a majority of the citizens of that State, who have placed the Governor in that office for a stated term by voting for the Governor in the Gubernatorial elections of that State.
Due to the severity of the issue, the process for impeaching a Governor is pretty stringent and is contained in the one document which has a very strict process and procedure for amendment- The Nigerian Constitution. The process for impeaching a Governor of a State in Nigeria is contained in Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution. In Nigeria, there have been a number of successful impeachments of State Governors since 1999.
Steps for impeaching the Governor of a State in Nigeria:
A notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the Governor. This notice must be signed by not less than one-third of the members of the State House of Assembly is presented to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly.
* Gross misconduct is defined by the Constitution as ‘…a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.’
The Speaker of the State House of Assembly must within 7 days, serve the Governor of the State and each member of the State House of Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation.
The Governor has a right of reply (he/she does not have to reply however), and any such statement in reply to the allegation must be served on each member of the State House of Assembly.
Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, the State House of Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. This motion needs to be passed by at least two-thirds majority of all members of the State House of Assembly.
If the motion fails to reach the required majority, the process immediately stops, and no further action will be taken. However, if the required majority is obtained and the motion is passed, then the Speaker of the State House of Assembly will within 7 days of the passing of the motion, request the Chief Judge of the State to appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity to investigate the allegations. The members of the Panel cannot be members of any public service, legislative house or political party.
The Panel is to report its findings within three months of being appointed. The findings will be reported to the State House of Assembly. During the proceedings of the Panel, the Governor shall have a right to defend himself, and shall also have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/her choice.
Where the Panel reports that the allegation has not been proven, there will be no further action. However, if the report is that the allegation against the Governor has been proven, then the State House of Assembly will consider the report, and a resolution for the adoption of the report shall be moved.
For the resolution to be adopted, it must be supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of the State House of Assembly. Once adopted the Governor shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
CONSEQUENCES OF IMPEACHMENT
Upon the adoption of the report by two-thirds majority of the State House of Assembly, the Governor stands impeached, and must immediately vacate the office of Governor. The office of the Governor will pass to the incumbent Deputy-Governor, and he will take the oath of office. Once the resolution is adopted, there is no recourse to any court of law or judicial proceedings. The Governor cannot challenge the decision of the panel or the State House of Assembly. Where the Governor is impeached, and the Office of the Deputy-Governor is vacant at the time, then the Speaker of the State House of Assembly shall hold the office of Governor for a period of not more than three months, during which there shall be an election of a new President, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office.
*Although once the impeachment resolution is passed, the impeachment cannot be ordinarily challenged, however, recent court cases have established that the courts have the power to determine the legality or otherwise of the process leading up to the removal of the elected official. In other words, though the impeachment can’t be challenged in court, the process leading up to the impeachment can be challenged in court.