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”C.J. has No Power to Question the Impeachment’- The Swearing in of a New Deputy Governor: In Defence of the Kogi State Judiciary by Akoh Ocheni, Esq.

”And My Lord arrived”, the new Deputy Governor seems to say. Photo credit: Kogi Reports

The panel investigating allegations of gross misconduct against the former Deputy Governor of Kogi State, His Excellency, Elder Simon Achuba, submitted a “no guilty verdict” report to the Kogi State House of Assembly on Friday, 18th October 2019. The Panel had up to three (3) months to submit its report but submitted the same within 53 days. The House of Assembly on the same date impeached the Deputy Governor based on the Panel’s report.

A new Deputy Governor was nominated by the State Governor, His Excellency, Yahaya Bello, and with the approval of the House of Assembly, His Excellency, Edward Onoja was appointed as the Deputy Governor of Kogi State. On Monday, 21st October 2019, the newly appointed Deputy Governor was sworn in by the Chief Judge of Kogi State, Hon. Justice, Nasir Ajana. By the provisions of Section 188(8) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the House of Assembly was not expected to take any further step(s) in respect of the matter given the “no guilty verdict” from the Panel.

They however did, by impeaching the former Deputy Governor, hence a vacuum was created in governance. The Chief Judge became functus officio after appointing the panel members and had no power(s) to interfere with their proceedings and the final outcome. Following Section 191(3)(a) and (c) of the Constitution, the Governor with the approval of the House of Assembly appointed a new Deputy Governor. On the strength of the provisions of Section 187(2) of the Constitution, the Chief Judge of Kogi State was under a constitutional duty to administer the oath of allegiance and the oath of office on the newly appointed Deputy Governor of Kogi State. The new Deputy Governor can only perform the functions of that office after been sworn in by the Chief Judge.

The Chief Judge has no power(s) to question the legality or otherwise of the impeachment of the outgone Deputy Governor, carried out by the House of Assembly. The Constitution does not grant him the power(s) to review the said Panel’s report submitted to the House of Assembly.

The Chief Judge only exercised his constitutional duties by swearing in the new Deputy Governor. There could be negative consequences if the Chief Judge of Kogi State refused or neglected to perform his duties of administering the oath of allegiance and oath of office on the Deputy Governor when called upon to do so by the Governor of Kogi State. The Chief Judge is not expected to jump into the arena of a dispute between the aggrieved parties. The only practical remedy open to the outgone Deputy Governor is to formally approach the High Court of Kogi State for redress.

Ocheni, Esq. is the Principal Partner of Akoh Ocheni Legal and writes from Lagos State, Nigeria.

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