Nasarawa State Governor Tanko Al-Makura on Monday appeared before the seven-man panel set up by the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Umaru Dikko, to investigate allegations of gross misconduct levelled against him by the state House of Assembly.
Members of the assembly were, however, absent.
The lawmakers were also not represented by any counsel at the sitting, which was held at the Conference Hall of the state’s Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in Lafia, the state capital.
Al-Makura arrived the ministry at 8.45am and took his seat at the conference hall at 9am, when the panel sitting was scheduled to start.
But the panel members arrived the venue at 9.20am and began sitting at 10am.
The panel, however, adjourned sitting till Tuesday (today) to enable the lawmakers to appear before it.
Before adjourning, the Chairman of the panel, Yusuf Usman, said the members would carry out their duties in accordance with the laid down procedures.
He said that the panel resolved to prepare guidelines that would ensure orderly conduct during its proceedings.
Usman added, “The panel decided to formulate some guidelines to guide its operation in order to allow the parties to appear before it for a smooth and orderly conduct of its proceedings.”
He, however, said that parties could appear in person or through their counsel.
“The Nasarawa State House of Assembly may make a formal presentation of the said allegations before the panel through an opening address either by themselves or their counsel,” he explained, adding that the governor could also appear in person or be represented by his counsel.
The chairman also said the Nasarawa State House of Assembly might “adduce evidence to prove the allegations contained in the said notice of impeachment of the Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State, dated 14th July,2014.
Umaru said the panel might dismiss the allegations if the assembly failed to appear or to provide proof of the allegations.
“Also, where the governor fails or neglects to defend the allegations against him ,and if the panel is satisfied that he has been duly served either personally or by substituted means (as the panel may have ordered) , the panel will proceed to consider the evidence led by the assembly and make appropriate findings.’’
The governor, during the second part of the public sitting on Monday, insisted that he was not served notice of impeachment. He said he only received the notice of the sitting.
Al-Makura said that he decided to appear before the panel to clear himself of the allegations.
The governor, who stood up and raised a voluminous copy of a statement of defence, said he had already prepared a written defence that he would present to the panel.
His lead counsel, Chief Udechukwu Udechuku (SAN), called on the panel to dismiss the notice of impeachment for want of proof of the allegations.
Udechukwu described nonappearance of the lawmakers as a disservice to the panel and Nigeria.
He urged the panel to enter a verdict of no-proof against the assembly members for not appearing to prove their allegations.
He said that Section 280 of the Criminal Procedure Act, Paragraph 7 and the guidelines of the panel were identical.
The SAN stated that if the accusers failed to turn up to substantiate their allegations, the panel or the court could dismiss the allegations.
The counsel further urged the panel to evoke paragraph 7 (c) of the Criminal Procedure Act to give effect to the guideline to dismiss the allegations.
He said that there was proof that the assembly was served with the hearing notice but that it chose not to appear before the committee.
“I am calling on the panel to evoke paragraph 7 (c) of the Criminal Procedure Act to give effect to the guidelines to dismiss the allegations leveled against the governor because there is proof that the house of assembly was served with hearing notic,” Udechukwu said.
The chairman ruled that though the panel would not oppose the submission of the lead counsel, it would give the lawmakers till Tuesday (today) to appear before it.
Efforts to get the comment of the chairman of the assembly’s Information and Security Committee, Baba Ibaku, were not successful as calls to his mobile telephone did not go through.
The Press Secretary to the Speaker of the assembly, Ibrahim Tanko, told The PUNCH in a telephone interview that he was not in the position to comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, Al-Makura has asked a state High Court to quash the impeachment notice issued against him by the state House of Assembly.
The governor filed the suit before a Nasarawa State High Court in Lafia on Monday following the resumption of judicial workers from their three weeks old nationwide strike.
Al-Makura is seeking judicial interpretation of sections 36(1) and 188(1)(2)(3)(4) and (5) of the Constitution in relation to the issuance of the impeachment notice on him.
The state House of Assembly and its 24 members are the defendants in the suit which is marked NSD/LF3/M/14
The governor’s lawyer, Udechuchuwu Udechukwu (SAN), who is leading Funke Aboyade (SAN) and seven others in the governor’s legal team, argued that the lawmakers failed to serve the notice of impeachment on his client as required by the constitution.