President Goodluck Jonathan
By Tobi Soniyi
A Federal High Court in Abuja Friday refused a prayer to stop the House of Representatives from commencing impeachment proceedings against President Goodluck Jonathan over alleged non-implementation of the budget.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole held that the court must be very certain that the impeachment proceeding was on course before the court could entertain the suit in order not to interfere with the responsibilities of the legislative arm of government.
Besides, the court held that sections 143 (1) and (10) of the 1999 constitution which laid down the procedure for the removal of a sitting president requires a joint impeachment resolution of both arms of the National Assembly before the president could be removed.
Justice Kolawole also said that by not joining the Senate as a party to the suit the motion ex-parte could not succeed. He held: "This may not be the proper occasion for this court to grant ex-parte order against the 2nd and 3rd defendants, (House of Representatives and the National Assembly) as the reliefs sought by the plaintiff largely benefit the president and not the applicant.”
He said that the applicant had nothing to lose if the application was refused.
He accordingly refused the ex parte order and adjourned the matter sine dine to enable the Chief Judge of the court re-assign the case since he (Kolawole) mandate to sit as vacation judge expired Friday.
National Chairman of African Liberation Party (ALP) Dr. Emmanuel Osita Okereke, had on Thursday applied to the court for an order stopping the House of Representatives from going ahead with the plan to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan for non-implementation of budget.
Counsel to the plaintiff/applicant, Alex Williams had while moving the application prayed the court to grant an interim order restraining the House from proceeding with the impeachment as it was capable of distracting the president from discharging his duties.
William argued that his client planned to contest for the office of presidency in 2015 and that if the proceeding to impeach the president was allowed to go on, it would create chaos.
However, Justice Kolawole said he needed time to study the processes to enable him deliver his ruling.
The defendants in the suit are the Speaker of the House of Representatives; the House of Representatives, the National Assembly; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice and President Goodluck Jonathan.
In his affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff stated that the move to impeach the president for non-implementation of 100 per cent of the 2012 budget in July 2012 was heating up the polity.
Besides, he averred that the September deadline issued by the House for 100 per cent implementation of the budget which is three months earlier than the end of 2012 calendar year and six months from the end of the 2012 budget/fiscal year, was a disguise to cause political turmoil.
In the course or arguing the application, Justice Kolawole said that he was not sure the impeachment process could lead to chaos. He said that the constitution governed impeachment and that if it was based on any ground that was not supported by law, it would collapse.
He said: “I’m not a politician. I will not convert my chamber to an alternative chamber of the National Assembly. I don’t see any reason for chaos. You are only trying to create panic.”
But Williams stood his ground saying that non-implementation of the budget 100 per cent when the fiscal year had not ended was not a ground for impeachment.
He stated that unless the court stopped the lawmakers, their counterparts in states might follow suit. The plaintiff in his originating summons posed nine questions for the determination by the court as follows:
*Upon proper reading and interpretation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, whether any provision of the Constitution made 100 per cent implementation of the Federal budget of Nigeria for each fiscal year as appropriated by National Assembly mandatory.
*Upon proper reading and interpretation of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, whether the National Assembly is empowered to impeach the president from office for failure to implement the budget by 100 per cent for any given fiscal year?
*Whether the constitution prescribed any time frame or date in each fiscal year within which to declare the budget as non-implemented?
If the above questions are answered in his favour, then the court should proceed to grant the following reliefs:
*A declaration that the move by the National Assembly to impeach the president from office for non-implementation of 100 per cent of the 2012 of the budget is premature, abuse of legislative powers, malevolent, unconditional, null and void.
*An order of perpetual injunction restraining the leadership of the National Assembly from impeaching the president for non-implementation of 100 per cent of the budget as appropriated
*An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from harassing or further harassing the president with threats of impeachment or commencing any process of Impeachment of the president for non-implementation of 100 per cent of the budget.