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Kogi: Why Achuba is challenging his impeachment

By Ibrahim Obansa, Lokoja
03 November 2019   |   4:12 am
The emergence of the former Chief of Staff to Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello as the new Deputy Governor may not have come to many as surprise, just as the recent impeachment of the former Deputy Governor, Chief Simon Achuba was long expected.Onoja was nominated by Governor Bello as his running mate....

Edward Onoja

The emergence of the former Chief of Staff to Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello as the new Deputy Governor may not have come to many as surprise, just as the recent impeachment of the former Deputy Governor, Chief Simon Achuba was long expected.Onoja was nominated by Governor Bello as his running mate, following his victory at the primary election of the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), which produced him as its standard bearer for the November governorship election.

No doubt, Chief Edward Onoja would be remembered as one of the most powerful and influential Chiefs of Staff to have ever served in the country, as major decisions by the Governor was allegedly influenced by him. He was in the centre of every raging storm in the state since Bello assumed office in 2016.
However, those close to the former CoS described him as a man who detests failure and has always done everything humanly possible to ensure the success of Bello administration. They also said he is the administration’s think-tank.

And just like the people linked him to the many controversies surrounding Bello’s administration, so also every success recorded by the government was traceable to him. He appears to have very good working relationship with his boss, and has earned his confidence over time. The more reason his new appointment did not surprise many.

Achuba had been having some irreconcilable differences with his principal. Perhaps, his impeachment by the state House of Assembly was the climax of the several problems he had been facing.Achuba’s impeachment followed the submission earlier in the day of the report of the committee set up by the state Chief Judge, Justice Nadir Ajana to investigate allegations of gross misconduct the House leveled against the former Deputy Governor.

The leader of the House, Hassan Bello Abdulahi, representing Ajaokuta state constituency, had announced the decision of the House to impeach Achuba, “after careful consideration of the report of the John Bayashea-led committee submitted earlier on Friday. The report was received, studied and deliberated upon and a unanimous decision was arrived at to impeach him and he therefore stands impeached.”

The seven-man committee submitted the report to the Speaker, Kogi State House of Assembly, Matthew Kolawole, at a brief ceremony, after which the House went into a closed-door session, where the report was considered and deliberated on.The committee was set up in August, following allegations of gross misconduct leveled against Achuba, who accused Bello of withholding his salaries and imprests since 2017, an allegation denied by the government during hearing by the committee.

The Director General, Media and Publicity to Bello, Kingsley Fanwo, also accused the embattled Deputy Governor of attempting to set the state on fire. He said the Deputy Governor’s interview on a national television, where he said Bello was orchestrating violence, “was incitement against the Governor and the Government of Kogi State.”

Achuba’s denial did not change anything, however, as he was eventually impeached. Interestingly, Achuba has insisted that he remains the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, despite his impeachment by the House. Speaking to The Guardian shortly after he was impeached, he said: “What they have done is nothing. I am the Deputy Governor of Kogi State, and I remain the Deputy Governor.” He condemned the lawmakers’ action, which he said was at variance with the investigation panel’s report.

The counsel to the Deputy Governor, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), said his client was not found guilty of any of the allegations leveled against him.He said Achuba would challenge the impeachment in court, and that he had not been removed as the Deputy Governor. He said; “The case is in court. They ignored the case in court. The case is coming up. We are going back to court. Nigeria is a country that should be ruled by the Constitution. We are not in a jungle.”
Okutepa insisted there was no impeachment, even as he maintained that nothing could come out of nothing. “You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand,” he said.

Similarly, Baiyeshea was reported to have said the panel did not find Achuba guilty of any of the allegations leveled against him. According to him, the allegations against the Deputy Governor were not proved.Baiyeshea said: “This is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard in my life. We submitted the report to the Speaker around 1pm today and I left Lokoja for Abuja. I was at Gwagwalada area, when one of the panel’s members that had not left Lokoja called to tell me that he saw it on television that the Deputy Governor had been impeached.

“As far as the report we submitted to the House of Assembly is concerned, the committee returned the decision that all the allegations were not proved. What the Constitution said by Section 188(8) is that, ‘once the panel returns a verdict like that, no further proceedings can be taken on it.’ It is only when the panel returns a verdict that allegations have been proved (to be true) that they can go ahead within 40 days.“When did the House sit? We delivered the documents and the House was not even in session today. Assuming the House convened, you can see that was less than one hour after we submitted our report.”

However, all this is now history, following the official installation of Onoja as the state’s substantive Deputy Governor last Monday.The Guardian gathered that Onoja was sworn in as Deputy Governor immediately after his screening by the state House of Assembly.Meanwhile, the state Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Busari has cleared the air on why the police barricaded Achuba’s house. 

In an interview with newsmen in Lokoja, Busari debunked the report that the impeached Deputy Governor was under house arrest, stressing that the presence of security personnel in the Deputy Governor’s official residence was to prevent looting of government property.He explained that this followed an advice given to Achuba to relocate from the official residence, since he was no longer entitled to stay there.It was reported that the fully armed security personnel manning the gate of the Deputy Governor’s official residence prevented visitors from going in or out of the house.Busari said the security personnel would be there until Achuba moves out of the house. 

It would be recalled that Achuba was sworn in as the Deputy Governor months after he defected to APC from PDP.He became APC’s deputy governorship candidate in the election that brought Bello into office, after the member of the House of Representatives running mate to the late Prince Abubakar Audu, James Faleke, rejected to be the governor’s running mate.But years into Bello’s administration, there were reports of disagreement between him and his deputy, an issue that escalated, as both sides trading blames.

In August 2019, Achuba raised alarm of alleged threat to his life, accusing his principal of intolerance of contrary views.He also criticised the administration for non-performance, claiming it was the reason for the rift between him and Bello.However, in a swift reaction to Achuba’s allegations, the state government slammed the Deputy Governor, saying he had no evidence to back his claims.

The statement also said the government does not train assassins and could not be involved in sending killers after anyone.Days later, things got worse, as the state House of Assembly announced it had commenced impeachment proceedings against Achuba for alleged gross misconduct. The Assembly described Achuba’s action as gross misconduct against Governor Bello and the people of Kogi State.

Thereafter, the Assembly directed the state Chief Judge to set up an investigative committee to probe Achuba.Not pleased with the lawmakers’ action, however, Achuba filed an application before the state High Court in Lokoja to challenge the impeachment notice served on him. This was, however, vacated, paving the way for the Chief Judge, Justice Nasiru Ajana to later set up the panel to investigate Achuba.In the ensuing scenario, the APC leadership in Kogi also suspended Achuba for alleged anti-party activities before, during and after the 2019 general elections.

The party also alleged that he took some actions, which constituted an embarrassment to Kogi APC family. Meanwhile, the state House of Assembly has said the impeachment stands, and that there was no going back on its verdict. The House Leader, Abdullahi Bello, (Ajaokuta, APC), who spoke on behalf of the House, also accused the probe panel of compromise. Bello said: “The panel submitted report to us, and based on that report, we gave our verdict. The rule of procedure says the panel is a fact-finding one, and panel members are not to give judgment. They are not supposed to give any verdict in this circumstance.

“The decision of whether the Deputy Governor is guilty or not is that of the House. Section 188 (11) says the House of Assembly is the only authority that determines what gross misconduct is. It is not for the panel to say proved or not proved.”On the issue of the panel’s report flying everywhere, he said: “I don’t know where that is coming from. The panel chairman, while addressing pressmen shortly after submitting the report to the Speaker, said it is not constitutional for him to disclose what was in the report, since he had submitted it to the appropriate quarter. How come few minutes later, the whole report was on social media, even before the House deliberated on it? Again, just to let you know that even the report in the public domain has not been signed, we know that the panel has compromised in the process. 

“We question the rationale behind the statement credited to the Panel Chairman, Barr. John Baiyeshea on the issue and wonder: what is his interest?“The impeached Deputy Governor was on some national television stations, discussing issues that should be classified information about the state government, thereby going against the oath of secrecy he swore to. Does that not amount to gross misconduct? “Even at the panel, Elder Simon Achuba confirmed that he appeared on those stations. Then, how come the panel said it was not proved? 

“Aside that, he also affirmed through an affidavit that he did commit the offence, as alleged. Besides, the submitted report came in three parts. How come the version on social media is only in two parts?“Achuba also lied that he was not paid salary, when the schedules of payment showed clearly that he was paid. These and many more show that he negated his function as a Deputy Governor.“Basically, our action was based on the panel’s report, and there is no going back from what we have done. If he is not comfortable with our decision, he can go to court.”