President Jonathan’s Impeachable Offences, By Timi Frank

Where is your credibility?

July 29, 2014

It is no longer news that instigated impeachment gale is sweeping across opposition states in the country. What is news is that the National Assembly has decided to overlook the avalanche of impeachable offences committed by the chief instigator of the impeachments, President Goodluck Jonathan. Nowhere was this more glaring than in the report of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Senate Committee on Finance which recommended that the Senate should call on the president to present a supplementary budget to cover unbudgeted expenses in the name of kerosene subsidy for the year 2011 and 2012. This is not only unconstitutional but an impeachable offence, and the world is still watching to see how the Senate intends to sweep this gross financial misconduct by the president under the carpet.

Our National Assembly, as an arm of government, must stop genuflecting before the executive. The legislature, by its sheer population, presupposes that its members are harbingers of reason, rationality, logic and wisdom. So they must not become pawns in the hands of the executive. This refusal to activate its oversight functions has today bred monumental corruption and tyranny in the Presidency. The president feels all-powerful. He is presently deploying his powers inordinately to impeach progressive governors at will.

When the National Assembly came up with the Doctrine of Necessity which saw then Vice President Jonathan become acting president, one had the feeling that this is a National Assembly that could be relied upon to defend our hard-earned democracy. But the events that have since defined the character of the assembly leave one pondering so many unanswered questions.

Nobody should entertain any illusion. As it stands today, the National Assembly is only being tolerated rather than respected by the executive and the judiciary as a necessary evil. It is like, “Let them have their say, we (executive and judiciary) will have our way.” If not, what accounts for so many resolutions of the National Assembly that the executive had failed to implement? Why are bills passed during the 5th and 6th National Assembly still forming the bulk of the legislative activities of the 7th National Assembly? There is however no assurance that the same bills will not dominate the 8th National Assembly. Why is the judiciary today so audacious as to order the legislature to suspend critical investigations while it dilly-dallies in the face of frivolous court processes? Why should the National Assembly asphyxiate itself by proposing to bury illegalities emanating from the executive or the judiciary?

Where then are the checks and balances envisaged in the principle of Separation of Powers? If the National Assembly becomes a sell-out, then, it is bye-bye to freedom of the people because they represent the grass roots. Collectively, they are supposed to hold the government accountable to the people far above what a thousand non-governmental organisations can do. Their failure is the cause of our stagnated development.

Due to over-protection by the Peoples Democratic Party-led National Assembly, especially the Senate under David Mark, the president is today deploying excessive powers to annihilate the opposition. The president has caused the impeachment of Adamawa governor Murtala Nyako. Yet he has committed impeachable offences which the National Assembly has chosen to turn a blind eye to. President Jonathan has lined up the removal of progressive governors like Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo as well as those of Oyo, Rivers, Borno and Yobe before the 2015 elections. Yet, the Senate has chosen to sweep his impeachable offences under the carpet.

Since 2011, no capital appropriation has achieved up to 35 per cent performance and yet no money was returned to the treasury by either the minister of finance or any of the MDAs. But, between 2007 and 2009, most MDAs returned their unspent budget. Is this not an impeachable offence?

The president has refused to assent to a total 120 bills passed by the current National Assembly. He has not sent any communication as to their rejection as stipulated in Section 58 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution. Yet the National Assembly has failed in its duties to invoke the necessary constitutional provisions to veto the bills. I believe that this is one of the reasons many analysts believe that the National Assembly as it stands today is just a money-guzzling machine without utilitarian value. So those calling for the scrapping of one of the chambers or that the legislature as presently constituted be made to sit on part-time basis are spot on after all. They must not continue to drain N150billion from the nation’s resources annually without adequate workable laws in the country to show for it. If all they do is fight for contracts, then, they have no reason to be there.

The National Assembly has, like Esau, sold its democratic rights to the Presidency. If I had my way, most of those over-indulging the president would never be allowed to find their way into the hallowed chambers in the next elections. They have ripped the people off by abandoning their sacred duty, which is to hold the government accountable to the people. They are today after filthy lucre. Those who have failed deserve no chance to be re-elected. Their place let another take.

Elections would be due in the first quarter of 2015 — just three months to the expiration of the 7th National Assembly. Are we to be deceived that lawmakers that would be encumbered by re-election matters at that time would still have the time to look at the PIB or even the ongoing Constitution Review process? Except a miracle happens, the legislators of the 8th National Assembly would still be saddled with the same bills the 7th Assembly has failed to pass in four years. What a waste!

The judiciary must not soil the temple of justice. Judgements influenced by cash or political considerations will ultimately blight our democracy and doom our nation. This will not be in the interest of all. The judiciary must not collude with legislators to thwart the will of the people. Judges and magistrates must know that, in their judgments, they judge themselves. Such judgements don’t lie.

Now that the president has begun to instigate the removal of APC governors over alleged gross misconduct, he should also be prepared to weed out all those that have been accused of corruption around him. A good example is the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who has failed to account for the alleged missing $20billion in NNPC or how she allegedly squandered N10billion to fly private jets in two years.

The National Assembly as the bastion of our constitutional democracy cannot afford to stifle the maturation of our democracy on the altar of personal interest. Our lawmakers are yet to regenerate themselves. They are still awash with pedestrian and parochial interests.

Finally, much as nothing is wrong with probing an erring public officer, probes with intent to impeach should not be instigated from outside. It should come from a constitutional process of lawmakers being alive to their responsibilities. If our democracy fails, some of our lawmakers who have colluded with the executive both at the state and national level to rob the people should be held responsible. One of such collusions is their refusal to sponsor impeachment notice against Jonathan for gross misconduct.