At last, Sir Jude Agbaso has been removed from office as Deputy Governor of Imo State; by the State House of Assembly. In essence, everyone including the blind probably saw it coming. The way it was handled has also made it to become the latest fake impeachment in Nigeria.
The last of its type transpired on Thursday, October 04, 2012 when the then Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Sani Abubakar Danladi, was impeached by the State House of Assembly. It was a process which easily showed that the legislators were contracted to do a hatchet job. Hence, we described them in this column at the time as the Taraba State “House-Boys” who could be ordered here and there for a fee. It was indeed rumoured then that each of them got N60 million to do the job.
Painfully, our law makers have successfully developed a trait of unwittingly putting themselves up for sale. Once compromised, they are never painstaking enough to add a bit of logic to their bizarre conduct thereafter. No wonder, the former Deputy Governor, of Bauchi State, Garba Gadi was impeached while on annual vacation leave; meaning that his hair was shaved in his absence.
Sometimes, our legislators are bribed to remove even their own Speaker from office. Although the Niger State Executive denied formally that it paid the State Assembly to replace a particular Speaker, the absurd reason given by the legislators for the removal of the speaker concerned has till date remained suspect. According to the legislators, they removed the Speaker for non-performance. Interestingly, he had been in office for barely 72 hours. When was he to perform?
In the latest case of Imo State, what the legislators were allegedly paid to remove Jude Agbaso as Deputy Governor is yet to be uncovered but the Assembly has not acted against the run of play. Historically, Imo legislators are probably better as comedians than as law makers.
To drive home this point, let us recall what the last Assembly did some 5 days to the expiration of its life-span in 2011. According to media reports, they removed their speaker and his Deputy and elected new ones; approved the suspension of nine other members; replaced the Chief Press Secretary to the former speaker and froze all the bank accounts of the House.
The new Speaker announced that within the short period remaining, that is, 5days, ALL the obnoxious laws earlier passed by the House, would be reviewed. All the house committees were then dissolved while the political parties in the house were requested to submit the names of their members to reconstitute the new committees supposedly to function for the next 5 days. Should the action of such a House surprise anyone?
In fairness, Imo Assembly members are no less proactive in impeachment matters than their colleagues in some other States of the federation. The fate of Agbaso is a case in point. The legislators have not only concluded his impeachment, they also simultaneously cleared his replacement in a record time. Indeed, the speed with which they handled both issues makes it hard for an onlooker to know which of the twins came first.
Some of the legislators, we hear have argued that they have a constitutional power to do what they did. A look at Section 188 of our constitution which governs the impeachment of a State Governor or his deputy largely validates their argument. However, the point must also be made that whereas their action appears to comply with the letter of the said Section 188, it violently disparages the spirit of the same section.
This is because the section was intended to create room for the removal of a clearly undesirable element from office. It was not intended to be used as the Imo legislators have just done, as a sword to inflict pain on political rivals, associates or even enemies. In addition, the impeachment process that removed Agbaso was rough and as usual was hurriedly done to arrive at a pre-determined end by whatever method.
Oh yes, no effort was made to prove the grave allegations made against the Deputy Governor before the Assembly acted on them. Did the contractor really bribe anyone? If so, how come he was unable to do further work when he still had over N600 million which he gave no one?
Again, if the zero tolerance slogan for corruption of their Governor is what propelled the House to move against Agbaso for allegedly receiving a huge bribe of N458 million, why did they not trace the destination of the money as well as how and when the amount left the account of the bribe giver?
Furthermore, what answers did the House get from others whose names were mentioned in the scandal? For example, did the Governor refute the claim by his erstwhile Deputy that the bribe giver is his own friend and that Agbaso first met the contractor in the company of the Governor at Imo Hotels?
Is it true that it was Agbaso who duly recommended in writing that the over bloated sum of the contract concerned be reduced? Is it also true that the response of the Governor was an approval for the contractor to be paid over N1billion for job not done?
Does it not sound strange that the contractor, after having been paid, felt obliged to bribe the man who wanted his profit reduced? If as we hear, the contract in question was for the rehabilitation of a -3kilometre road, was the Imo Assembly comfortable with such a contract amounting to N400 million per kilometer?
What about the argument that the contract was neither advertised nor was there any bidding for it? Is the bribe giver not a party to the crime? If so, what happens to him or did he become a prosecution witness for the Assembly? Are we sure there was no kind of plea bargaining in the process?
What about the rumour that one aide of the Governor has since become a member of the bribe giver’s company- did that happen? In any case, how does the Assembly intend to ensure that the bribe money is refunded to its original owners- the Imo people?