Impeachment: Akpabio in the eye of the storm

Barely three months after his election as President of the Senate in the 10th National Assembly Godswill Akpabio is facing impeachment threats. TOPE SUNDAY reports that despite official denial of the plot there is more to the report than meets the eye.

Senator Godswill Akpabio emerged as the 10th President of the Senate on June 13, this year, after defeating Senator Abdulaziz Yari. He polled 63 votes to defeat the former governor of Zamfara, who garnered 46 votes.

Akpabio seemed to have fallen out of grace with those who supported and campaigned for his emergence rather early in the day. In a swift turn of events, the Senate Chief Whip, Ali Ndume, who served as director-general during Akpabio’s campaign for the Senate Presidency, on August 12, about two of his ascension of the coveted, declared that they (Senators) were planning on taking drastic action against him for openly disclosing that a ‘holiday allowance’ had been sent to their bank accounts for their recess.

Akpabio’s outburst

The Senate President, just before the Senate adjourned for its annual recess, told his colleagues that money had been sent to them to “enjoy” their holiday.

The Senate President had said: “To enable all of us to enjoy our holidays, a token has been sent to our various accounts by the Clerk of the National Assembly.” Akpabio quickly amended his statement, saying: “I withdraw that statement. To allow you to enjoy your holiday, the Senate President has sent prayers to your mailboxes to assist you to go on a safe journey and return.”

This comment was greeted by criticisms from Nigerians berating the senators for feeding fat on the nation’s treasury while most of them live in abject poverty.

Impeachment threat

Barely one month after the incident, the media has been awash with reports on alleged impeachment plans against the Senate President. This as serving and former governors as well as members of civil society have reportedly keyed into the plot.

Blueprint Weekend reports that some pro-Akpabio senators were said to have gone on a troubleshooting mission to their colleagues, while others were said to be considering involving the Dr Abdullahi Ganduje-led All Progressives Congress (APC) National Working Committee (NWC).

Conversely, the Coalition for Parliamentary Democracy (CPD) has demanded the Senate President’s resignation, claiming that he had fallen out of favour with his colleagues.

CPD advised Senator Akpabio to quit pointing accusatory fingers but rather come clean on why his colleagues want him out.

According to CPD, the Senate President’s actions had raised doubts about his ability to provide transparent and credible leadership.

The group in a press statement by its National Coordinator, Dr. Menike Johnson, highlighted the alleged failings of Akpabio’s leadership.

They noted that, Senators who support the call for his removal have argued that Akpabio has struggled to fulfill the responsibilities expected of a Presiding Officer.

Furthermore, they have accused him of violating fundamental parliamentary conventions and processes, particularly in matters related to overseeing the Senate’s financial affairs.

One of the central issues the group cited was the perceived preferential treatment in the management of the Senate.

Allegations of favoritism in financial matters have also cast a shadow over Akpabio’s tenure.

This as some of his colleagues argue that this undermines the integrity of the Senate and erodes public trust in the institution. These concerns have prompted a move within the Senate to address what many see as a critical leadership failure.

Akpabio’s office, however, has attempted to deflect blame by attributing the calls for his resignation to “one South-South Governor.” CPD, on the other hand contended that such attempts to externalise the issue amounted to sidestepping the core concerns raised by other Senators.

The group argued that the focus should be on addressing the specific allegations against Akpabio rather than pointing fingers at external individuals.

As parliamentary observers, CPD has maintained that it was vital for Akpabio to respond to the issues raised by his colleagues and provide clarity on his actions as Senate President.

The group encouraged him to engage with the allegations and demonstrate commitment to upholding parliamentary standards.

CPD further suggested that the Senate President considered stepping down from his position.

They argue that the nation cannot afford to have an unstable leadership within the Senate, especially during a critical period in Nigeria’s history.

The group maintained that call for Akpabio’s resignation reflected broader concerns about the stability and effectiveness of the Nigerian Senate.

According to the group, it was a critical moment in the country’s history, and Nigerians expected their elected representatives to provide strong and accountable leadership.

The group’s statement underscored the importance of maintaining transparency, integrity, and credibility in the Senate’s leadership.

“As this issue unfolds, all eyes are on Akpabio, who must decide how to respond to the mounting pressure and allegations against him,” it further stated.

Akpabio’s response

The Senate President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Hon. Eseme Eyiboh, however, described reports of an impeachment plot against him as the handiwork of “merchants of political tar brush”.

He said the reports, published in some dailies appeared to be a syndicated media attack orchestrated from outside the National Assembly by the purveyors who know next to nothing about the workings of legislature.

The Senate President declared that Senators cannot be distracted by innuendoes.

His removal should be constitutional -Lawyer

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, an Abuja-based Legal Practitioner, Barrister Osaretin Umamtu, said the Seante President’s impeachment should follow the constitutional guidelines and the laid down rules of the Senate if he has committed any constitutional infraction that would warrant his ouster from office.

He said: “There are procedures, and there are laid down rules in the Senate. They can just wake up and say they want to remove him, if they want to, there are procedures. “There must be a question whether he has fallen short of the law, or he has committed an offence to warrant that. But if there is nothing of such, they can’t remove him.

“You know, it is all about politics and the Senate is not a place for illiterates. It is a place where due processes are being followed. His removal must be based on the constitutional requirements, and the laid down rules of the Senate that is just it. So, the issue of the threat that they want to remove him is a matter of time. Let us wait and see.”

There are no legal impediments – NBA rights coordinator

Also speaking, the Human Rights Coordinator, Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Garki Branch, Abuja, Emmanuel Ekwe, told our reporter that there was no legal fence or impediments preventing members of the 10th National Assembly from impeaching Akpabio.

“There is no legal fence or impediments preventing members of the 10th National Assembly from impeaching Senate President Godswill Akpabio.

“It is in the precincts of members of the Assembly to replace any of its principal officers provided the procedure adopted to achieve such purpose is not at variance with the provisions of the law and the Senate Standing Rules.

“For the avoidance of ambiguity, let me state that Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution provides that to legally impeach any presiding officer of a legislature, a two-thirds requirement of the 109 senators must be met. It does not matter whether the president of the senate has only held the position for just one day, if the impeachment is done with recourse to the law, it stands,” Ekwe said.

Required 2/3, herculean task – Varsity don

On his part, a Lecturer at the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, Mr. Femi Fayomi, told this medium that though Akpabio may not enjoy a long stay in office given the spate of the underground agitations making rounds there was a caveat that could make his removal from office a herculean task.

He said: “It is important to note that impeachment is a legal means of removing the elected and presiding officers in a democratic society.

“It is also worthy to note that it is a constitutional matter, for instance, a two-thirds majority is required to actualize the impeachment exercise.

“Now, given the circumstances that led to the emergence of Akpabio as the Senate President and the high wire politics as well as the intense contest which saw Sen. Yari pulled 46 votes, it is just a pointer to the fact that the office of the 10th Senate President will be susceptible to frequent change of the occupier of the seat.

“The event that happened on the day the Senate was to proceed on recess where the Senate President announced that he had sent prayers to the email of the senators made most of the senators embarrassed and some vowed to get him off the seat to save them further humiliation.

“The various petitions bordering on alleged corruption and misconduct as well as mismanagement of Akwa Ibom state resources as governor and the NDDC management would no doubt intensify the call for his impeachment.

“Alos, the rumour making the round on the perceived ‘yorubanisation’ of the financial sector under President Tinubu has become a concern to some northerners.

“Having said this, the task of removing a Senate President who enjoys the backing of the Presidency remains a herculean one as it might be difficult if not impossible to get the 2-3 majority required to effect the change. It was easier to remove the Senate President in 1999 because of the no backing of President Obasanjo for the late Chuba Okadigbo and Adolphus Wabara. Since then, the Senate leadership has enjoyed relative stability making David Mark spend eight years, the only turbulent period was during the leadership of Bukola Saraki who emerged as Senate President against his then APC party candidate.

“It is apt to say that Senator Akpabio may not enjoy a long stay in office as Senate President given the spate of the underground agitations making the rounds. “It is instructive to note that Senator Akpabio and Senator Ndume, who was the director general of the campaign for Akpabio’s quest for Senate President, have a no-love-lost relationship since his emergence. This may fuel the facilitation of the impeachment saga.”

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