By Chukwudi Ikpe and Nick Chibunna
In the eyes of the law, the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere, has not been impeached.
This was the opinion of an Owerri-based legal practitioner, Barr. Francis Ekwueme, who spoke to Christian Voice, recently, as news of the impeachment of Prince Madumere by the Imo State House of Assembly broke.
Speaking on the contentious issue, Chief Ekwueme said that as far as the administration of legal procedure, and by extension the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is concerned, the Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere had not been impeached.
Barr. Ekwueme queried, if you say that Eze Madumere has been impeached, who is the substantive Imo Deputy Governor now?
He said that section 188 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) states clearly the procedure to follow in the event of the removal of a governor or his deputy, adding that none of the steps were taken in this case.
The legal luminary described the entire scenario as laughable and a trial of the rule of law.
On his part, the former special adviser to late Evan Enwerem on special duties and protocol, Hon. John Duruji, described the action as a miscarriage of legal procedure.
He said that before the purported impeachment, there was a court order restraining the Imo State House of Assembly and the chief Judge of the state, Justice Paschal Nnadi, from carrying out the exercise but regretted that the action was taken in defiance of the court order.
Hon. Duruji faulted the hasty and selective manner in which the exercise was carried out and described it as “Kangaroo”.
He wondered how a court of competent jurisdiction could issue an order only for such an order to be defined by a House that is charged with making laws for good governance, adding that the impeachment would not stand.
Also commenting, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration in the Imo State University, Dr. Sampson Ekwonna, said that the impeachment of the Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, leaves much to be desired.
Dr. Ekwonna, who described the action as an abuse of legal and legislative process, warned that except we look inward and do things as they should, the society might be heading toward anarchy.
He advocated a mass recall of the Imo State Assembly members who have been accused of allowing themselves to be used and misused by the executive.
Speaking also to Christian Voice on the issue, Barr. Kissinger Ikokwu flayed the State House of Assembly members who, he said, acted in a hurry and without due process.
“It is against the rule of law. The committee set up by the Chief Judge will hand over its report to the House and the accused should be given a chance to defend himself. All these were not done”, he said.
The lawyer viewed as “unfortunate and comical” the fact that two deputy governors have been booted out under the same Gov. Rochas Okorocha, saying that it has a moral question attached to it.
He regretted that instead of talking about policies and their effects on the people, the Imo State government is busy perfecting unnecessary and baseless impeachments.
The outspoken legal practitioner also pointed out that the impeachment could be reversed, whether now or later, and if that happens the deputy governor will get all his entitlements.
Adding his voice, a public opinion analyst, Dr. Chuks Osuji, said that the impeachment was illegal and unconstitutional.
According to him, “it cannot stand any constitutionality test it cannot stand the test of time and cannot withstand legal scrutiny”.
Speaking to Christian Voice in his office, Dr. Osuji expressed optimism that the impeachment will be reversed, but added that it will be of no use to Imo State and lmolites.
Another lawyer, Barr. Alex Williams, who aired his views on the issue, explained that the action of the lawmakers was a contempt of court, since the matter was still pending in a court of law.
Barr. Williams, who is the president of South East Association of Lawyers, however, blamed the embattled deputy governor for his predicament. He said that Madumere should have resigned to save his head, having seen the handwriting on the wall.
“He was there when the same thing happened to Agbaso and should have learnt from experience,” he added.
The lawyer condemned the attitude of politicians holding on to power no matter the situation.
Also speaking, an Owerri based accountant who pleaded nonutility said that it is not a surprise, stressing that it has happened before.
He accused Governor Okorocha of selfishness, adding that the governor was overbearing.
He expressed doubt over a newly appointed deputy governor lasting till the end of the tenure.
In his own reaction, Engr. Cyprian Ezeugo said it is good riddance to Prince Eze Madumere who, according to him, “was among those that removed Jude Agbaso from the same position”.
He regretted that the ruling class are only interested in fighting themselves instead of bettering the lot of the masses.
Prince Madumere was impeached last Monday despite a court order restraining both the chief Judge of the state and the state House of Assembly from proceeding with the impeachment move which had hingered for some weeks now.
The state legislature had earlier issued the Deputy Governor an impeachment notice based on what it termed as gross misconduct.
He was accused of being absent from office for more than 90 days, failure to perform constitutional assignments, failure to attend state security/executive meetings and concealment of jail conviction in the United States of America.
The Deputy Governor, however, denied the allegations.
The motion for the impeachment was moved by the majority leader of the House and member, representing Owerri Municipal Council Hon. Lugard Osuji and carried out by 19 out of 27 members of the House.
In the meantime, Governor Rochas Okorocha has appointed the state Head of Service, Mr. Callistus Ekenze as his new Deputy and the appointment has been approved by the House.
However, court stopped his swearing-in on Tuesday by the state Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Pascal Nnadi, who insisted on obeying the court order.
By Chukwudi Ikpe and Nick Chibunna