Following reports about plans to impeach President Muhammadu Buhari by aggrieved members of the Senate who are angry over the ongoing trial of the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy Ike Ekweremadu over allegations of forgery of Senate rules during their elections, many Nigerians are wondering how the saga will play out.
It should be noted that no sitting president has been impeached in Nigeria, although a few governors and their deputies have been sent packing.
We examine the facts on how Nigeria’s president and his vice can be impeached as provided in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Chapter 6 (section:143).
We divide the section into three stages involved in the impeachment process.
Stage 1: The Presentment
(1) The President or Vice-President may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(2) Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly:-
(a) is presented to the President of the Senate;
(b) stating that the holder of the office of President or Vice-President is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified,
the President of the Senate shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice cause a copy thereof to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the National Assembly, and shall also cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office to be served on each member of the National Assembly.
Stage 2: The Investigation
(3) Within fourteen days of the presentation of the notice to the President of the Senate (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice) each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.
(4) A motion of the National Assembly that the allegation be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed, unless it is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House of the National Assembly.
(5) Within seven days of the passing of a motion under the foregoing provisions, the Chief Justice of Nigeria shall at the request of the President of the Senate appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provide in this section.
Step 3. The Trial
(6) The holder of an office whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person and be represented before the Panel by legal practitioners of his own choice.
(7) A Panel appointed under this section shall –
(a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the National Assembly; and
(b) within three months of its appointment report its findings to each House of the National Assembly.
(8) Where the Panel reports to each House of the National Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.
(9) Where the report of the Panel is that the allegation against the holder of the office has been proved, then within fourteen days of the receipt of the report at the House the National Assembly shall consider the report, and if by a resolution of each House of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, the report of the Panel is adopted, then the holder of the office shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
(10) No proceedings or determination of the Panel or of the National Assembly or any matter relating thereto shall be entertained or questioned in any court.
(11) In this section –
“gross misconduct” means 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.
CONSEQUENCES OF IMPEACHMENT
According to an online Law site, Lawpadi, Upon the adoption of the report by two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, the President stands impeached, and most immediately vacate the office of President.
The office of the President will pass to the incumbent Vice-President, 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 President cannot challenge the decision of the panel or the National Assembly.
The President is normally entitled, upon vacation of office, to a pension for life at the rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent President. He loses this pension for life upon impeachment.
Where the President is impeached, and the Office of the Vice-President is vacant at the time, then the President of the Senate shall hold the office of President 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 normally challenged, however, recent court cases have established that, the clear position of the law is that the courts are empowered 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.
-Olalekan Olonilua for encomium.ng