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Citing Constitutional Powers, FG Moves to Oust Tambuwal

31 Oct 2014

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Hon. Aminu Tambuwal,

  •  Withdraws security aides, picture deleted from N'Assembly website 
  • Speaker, APC legislators meet, vow to fight 
  • Opposition party, PPA, others flay action

Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Muhammad Bello and Yemi Akinsuyi 

The battle for the leadership for the House of Representatives was stepped up a gear on Thurday following the determination of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led federal government to oust the House’s speaker, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, with presidency sources citing President Goodluck Jonathan’s oath to defend the constitution.


Tambuwal had defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday, leading to the withdrawal of his police escorts early yesterday by the acting Inspector General of Police (IG). His photograph has also been deleted from the website of the National Assembly.


In a brief statement, the Force’s spokesman, Emmanuel C. S Ojukwu said Tambuwal’s security personnel were withdrawn for violating the constitution.


The police said: “In view of the recent defection by the Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tanbuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from the People Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC), and having regard to the clear provision of Section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) have redeployed its personnel attached to his office.”


However, Tambuwal expressed shock over the statement issued by the Nigeria Police Force justifying the withdrawal of police security personnel attached to him by the IG.


But presidency sources informed THISDAY that Jonathan was within his rights to uphold the constitution, which he had sworn to defend when he was sworn-in as the president.


They said since Section 68(1)(g) cited by the IG is explicit on a lawmaker vacating his/her seat should he/she move to another political party, Tambuwal’s position as the speaker of the lower chamber of the National Assembly had become untenable.


A presidency source further explained that whereas the presidency shall wait for and abide by the outcome of the lawsuit instituted by 37 House of Representatives’ lawmakers stopping the leadership of the lower chamber from declaring their seats vacant, Tambuwal, on the other hand, was never one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit in question.


They explained that in his capacity as the speaker, he was a respondent to the lawsuit and therefore had not and cannot institute legal action halting the leadership of the House, of which he is a member, from declaring his seat vacant.


In this regard, the presidency source said Tambuwal was simply clutching at straws and did not carefully think through the implication of his defection to APC on his position in the House.


“As far as we are concerned, he has effectively lost his seat and it is the president’s determination to uphold the intendment of the constitution.


“This should not be seen as the executive meddling in the affairs of the legislature or judiciary. It should be seen as a constitutional matter, which the president has sworn to uphold.


“So the IG was right to have withdrawn the police escorts attached to Tambuwal’s office, as it was a privilege and not a right. He lost that privilege once he defected and effectively vacated his seat in the House of Representative,” argued the presidency source.


But the speaker’s spokesman Imam Imam said the implication of the IG’s statement was that “as sanction for this alleged constitutional breach, he had removed Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal from the Office of Speaker House of Representatives”.


The spokesman added: “For the avoidance of doubt, the question of whether or not there is a division or faction in the PDP has been resolved by Lord Justice Faji of the Ilorin Division of Federal High Court in suit FHC/ IL/CS/6/2014, in which the court held that indeed there were factions in the PDP.


Again in suit no FHC/S/ CS/4/2014, the Sokoto Division of the Federal High Court per Justice Aikawa, the judgment of the court was that there was not only a division, but faction in the PDP which later merged with the APC.


“As the number four citizen in the hierarchy of protocol in the country, the speaker is entitled to security protection by the security agencies. Therefore we see the action of the acting Inspector General of Police as not only a contempt of the courts but a ploy to bring harm to the person of Rt. Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal.”


Imam stressed that nothing in the constitution, nor the Police Act confers on the police force adjudicatory powers including the interpretation of the constitution.


“In any case, even Section 215 of the 1999 Constitution does not contemplate the issuing of or compliance with unlawful orders by the president and or the Inspector General of Police, respectively.


“What the acting Inspector General of Police has done therefore has no basis in law including the constitution which he has cited.
“It is a brazen act of crass impunity, gross constitutional breach and contempt of court. The Inspector General should desist from assuming or usurping the constitutional functions of the judiciary,” Imam said.


He reminded the IG that the speaker was elected by House members from among themselves under Section 50(1) (b) of the constitution and could only be removed from office by two-thirds of the members of the House.


Imam stressed that Section 68(1)(g) of the constitution, which refers to a member vacating his seat on the grounds of defection, which the IG referred to, has a proviso, which has been and is still a matter for judicial and not police interpretation.
He added, however, that the speaker has faith and confidence in the judiciary and is persuaded that it cannot be stampeded into administering injustice.


The statement, notwithstanding, THISDAY learnt that some legislators of the APC in the lower chamber met with Tambuwal thursday at his residence to ensure that the speaker continues to enjoy his privileges.


THISDAY gathered that a number of options were considered, including taking legal action against the government. If that fails to work, they intend to engage the services of a reputable security firm to provide VIP protection for the speaker.


Hon. Ali Ahmed (APC, Kwara) told THISDAY over the telephone that they, as opposition lawmakers, had an inkling that this was going to happen since the government was aware that the impeachment of Tambuwal would be difficult given the House rules, which make it impossible to recall members from adjournment without the consent of the speaker.


“From the moment he defected, we expected that something like this would happen. We expected that the federal government will remove his security detail,” Ahmed said.


“May be their argument will be that since he has decamped, he has ceased to be the speaker. We will meet with him and know from which quarters this is coming before we decide what to do,” he added.


“It is wrong to remove his security detail as long as he remains the speaker. You don’t play politics with security. The security detail are supposed to protect privileged citizens like him. They are not anybody’s private property,” a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), who preferred anonymity, also told THISDAY.


In the same vein, Mr. Sa’idu Mohammed Tudun Wada, a legal practitioner, said the withdrawal had a political undertone to it, “because all this while he has been the speaker, it has been the tradition to assign police escorts to protect him and other public officials”.
“Why are his own being removed now that he has defected from the PDP?” he asked.


Citing the right to self-defence available to the speaker as a Nigerian, Tudun Wada said Tambuwal could go to court and challenge the removal of his security aides on the grounds that a precarious political situation would prevail in the country which calls for him to have his security personnel to remain intact as a public figure.


“But he cannot engage thugs to protect him but private security men who are recognised by law. The withdrawal does not bar the speaker from protecting himself,” the lawyer explained.


Similarly, a civil society group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has asked President Goodluck Jonathan to order the immediate restoration of the full compliments of security detail to Tambuwal and sanction administratively the top security officials in the armed security community that authorised the withdrawal in the first instance.


In a statement jointly issued by the group’s National Coordinator Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said it received with the utmost shock and unpalatable consternation the undemocratic development of the withdrawal of the security operatives attached to the office and person of the speaker on the alleged orders from above.


The rights group said the security officials who did the unthinkable of effecting the withdrawal of security cover given Tambuwal could even be mistaken as persons plotting to undermine democracy and the rule of law and must be dealt with accordingly in line with the principle of the rule of law.


HURIWA said it smacked of illegality and the height of impunity for the police, under any guise, to have contemplated, talk less of actually enforcing the primitive, punitive atrocious act of withdrawing the statutory security detail attached to Tambuwal on the nebulous and unqualified grounds that he switched his allegiance from one registered political party to another.


The group said the action was capable of damaging, in a very serious way, the international image of Nigeria as a democracy.
In its reaction, the APC also has called on the president to show a better understanding of democracy by immediately restoring the police personnel that the IG unlawfully withdrew.


In a statement issued in Abuja yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary Alhaji Lai Mohammed the party described the announcement of the withdrawal of the speaker’s security detail by the IG as a usurpation of the role of the judiciary by the IG “especially bearing in mind that the question of the interpretation of Section 68(1)(g) of the constitution on which he anchored his illegal act is currently before the courts for resolution”.


The party said, for the avoidance of doubt, the position including the manner a person becomes the Speaker of the House of Representatives is to be found in the constitution, and no constitutional provision or legislation says membership of the ruling or dominant party in the House is a pre-requisite.


“Furthermore, as the number four citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the security detail and apparatus attached to the person of the speaker is not based on his lineage, person and or political leaning. It is on account of the position and the protection required for that position and in Nigeria’s best interest.


“This unfortunate use and deployment of Nigeria’s security forces in a partisan and political way portends danger and further weakens important institutions of governance and jeopardises national security.


“Under President Jonathan, we now have a police force that is monitoring and making conclusions with respect to party membership, qualification, of an otherwise elected official. This is unheard of in any decent democracy.


“It is unfortunate that President Jonathan who has been a successive long term and unique beneficiary of our democracy and constitution is now demonstrating the greatest disregard for the laws that govern and guide us as a people.


“President Jonathan, who is the only individual who benefited from the same constitution to become a governor from a deputy governor without an election and from a vice president to president in similar legal circumstances, now desecrates the same constitution.


“APC rejects this challenge to democracy and modern society. We reject President Jonathan’s illegality and call for respect and compliance with the law. We reject this meddling in the affairs of the legislature especially given the resolution of President Jonathan and his close advisers thursday at their meeting to ask the deputy speaker, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha to unlawfully reconvene the House before the adjourned date.


“May we remind President Goodluck Jonathan that under the House Rules only a resolution by all principal officers of the House and not even the speaker of the House can reconvene the House before the adjourned date not to talk of the deputy speaker,” it said.
APC was joined by the leadership of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), which also faulted the action of the police.


The National Chairman of PPA, Peter Ameh, while unveiling the electoral guidelines and timetable for the party’s primaries to journalists in Abuja yesterday, said the same police failed to invoke its powers on governors and other political office holders who defected from PPA to PDP and other platforms.


Ameh, who condemned the action in strong terms, warned that rather than drag Jonathan’s name in the mud, the police should rise to its constitutional mandate, by taking proactive and decisive measures to nip in the bud the brewing crisis in the country, so that further threats to the peace and stability in the nation will be averted.


The PPA chairman said the police by their act, did not only vindicate Tambuwal’s party, but have also displayed their inconsistency.
He wondered why the police failed to invoke the same Section 68(1)(g) of the constitution when governors and other political office holders defected from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other platforms.


“I believe Mr. President is not aware of this. This kind of action is unworthy of trust and lacking in consistency. Let’s not continue to waste stick when burning issues affects just us,” the party said.


While elaborating on the decisions reached at the meeting of PPA’s National Executive Committee (NEC), Ameh said the party fixed the fee for expression of interest/nomination forms for the presidency at N19 million (N4 million and 15 million respectively) and expression of interest form/governorship nomination forms at N2 million and N7 million, respectively.

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