By Yusuf Alli, Eric Ikhilae, Abuja and James Azania, Lokoja
Abuja (Sundiata Post) – The Kogi State House of Assembly on Friday impeached the state deputy governor, Elder Simon Achuba.
In doing so, however, the panel shunned the report of a seven-man judicial panel of enquiry constituted by the Kogi State Chief Judge, Justice Nasir Ajanah, to investigate the allegation of gross misconduct leveled against him.
The Chairman of the panel, Barrister John Baiyeshea, SAN, had earlier in the day led six other members of the panel to submit the report to the Speaker, Prince Mathew Kolawole, at the assembly complex in Lokoja.
The House, after a few hours, announced the deputy governor’s impeachment, following an emergency meeting.
Majority Leader of the House, Bello Balogun, announced that the house met, sat and deliberated on the recommendations of the panel to arrive at their decision.
Documents available to The Nation, however, revealed that contrary to the decision of the lawmakers, the seven-man panel had cleared Achuba before his purported impeachment.
The panel headed by Baiyeshea had said that the allegations against Achuba had not been proved, saying there was no basis for the removal of the deputy governor in line with the 1999 Constitution.
It said the salaries of the deputy governor were not paid since February 2018
But while the panel’s report was submitted to the Assembly, it went ahead to remove the deputy governor.
The Assembly’s decision was said to have shocked members of the panel who were inaugurated by Justice Ajana on August 26, 2019.
A report of the panel obtained by The Nation on Friday night said Achuba was not guilty of mismanagement of funds, incitement, and murder of constituents.
Members of the panel are John Baiyeshea, SAN (Chairman); Hon. Justice S. S. Idajili (Rtd.); Barrister U. O. Onoja; Barrister E. I. Omuya; Venerable Z. O. Asun; Engr. Muhammad Ada Shuaibu and Dr. I. Ndagi Adamu.
The report said in part: “In line with Section 188(8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) quoted herein before, we hereby report to the Kogi State House of Assembly that the allegations contained in the Notice of Allegations admitted in evidence by this Panel as Exhibit C7 have not been proved.”
The panel dismissed the allegation of misappropriation of funds and non-compliance with extant financial regulations by the deposed deputy governor.
It said: “The summary of the evidence of all the said witnesses is that the Deputy Governor ought to retire some funds, and reference is made in this allegation to records from the Accountant-General’s Office and other appropriate Agencies which the Complainants claim indicate total non-compliance by the Deputy Governor, but Exhibit C8, C9, C10, C11, C12 produced from the Accountant General’s office tendered by CW2, firstly are not signed documents except for its certification.
“So the maker is not known, and by reason of them having not been signed originally, they are of no probative value.”
The panel also cleared the impeached deputy governor of alleged sponsorship of communal unrest, murder of constituents and displacement of communities in lyano, Ibaji LGA, Kogi State.
The report said: “This allegation was abandoned by the complainants in that no evidence was led at all by the complainants for consideration in respect of this allegation. Therefore same is abandoned.
“However, the allegation of the complainants is that there is a report of a Panel that indicted the Deputy Governor. No such report was placed before us. Instead, the Deputy Governor in paragraph 17 (m) (xvi) averred categorically that the report, Exhibit RQ which he tendered does not contain any indictment against the Deputy Governor.
“Consequently, this allegation having been abandoned is not proved.”
The panel also confirmed that the claim of the deputy governor that his salaries were unpaid since February 2018 was true.
The report added: “In Sub-paragraph 3 of the allegation of misconduct Exhibit C7, the complainant states as follows: “That his claims as regards non-payment of salaries is believed to be false upon an objective consideration of the state of the State’s finances hitherto, which is well known to all members of this Honourable House who also made efforts to find solutions.”
“Our comment, observation, and opinion on this is that apart from just a feeble statement that the claim of the Deputy Governor is false, there is nothing to suggest that the complainants were asserting positively and categorically that the Deputy Governor had been paid his salaries.
“However, the complainants want the claim of the Deputy Governor to be subjected to objective consideration of the finances of the state.
“We must confess that we do not understand what this phrase is supposed to mean. But we interpret it actually in the context of the whole paragraph to mean that the Deputy Governor’s salaries were not paid because the state has challenges with its finances and that the challenges are known to the members of the House of Assembly (who incidentally are the complainants) and that they’ve been making efforts to find solutions.
“In other words, we take this as an admission against interest to say that the Deputy Governor’s salaries have indeed not been paid and he has reason to complain.
“Based on the Notice of Misconduct before us, this particular allegation does not contain anything to show positively that the claims of the Deputy Governor are not true.
“However, in the observance of provisions for fair hearing, and to hear all the parties and what they have to put in, the complainants were allowed before commencement of hearing to bring in additional documents.
“And the additional documents are Exhibits C1 to C6 which were tendered by CW 1, and Exhibits C8- C12 tendered by CW2.
“By these exhibits, the complainants attempted to establish that the Deputy Governor was paid his salary contrary to his claim.
“However, it was revealed under cross-examination of CW1 and CW2 by J.S. Okutepa , SAN, that the said Exhibits were mere Schedules of Payment sent to the banks without cash backing.
“CW1 admitted under Cross-examination and stated as follows: “There is a distinction between Schedule of Payment and Actual payment. Salaries are not paid by cash and when they are paid by cash, the beneficiary signs… We are not owing any civil servants any salaries. We have paid them till August.”
“We observe here that the issue has to do with the Deputy Governor’s salary who is a political office holder and not a civil servant. It is also to be noted that Exhibits C8 – C12 tendered by CW2 are also schedules of payment. CW2 under cross-examination (See record of proceedings of 16th September 2019 Volume 2) admitted that he did not make any direct payments to the Deputy Governor.
“He also admitted that the Exhibits are not payment vouchers and as such the Deputy Governor did not sign the documents. From the evidence of these two witnesses, it cannot be positively confirmed/asserted that the Deputy Governor’s claims of non-payment of his salary is false.
“This is because from the totality of the evidence as enunciated above, there is a doubt about the payment of salaries to the Deputy Governor who is claiming that he has not been paid.
“We resolve this doubt in favour of the Deputy Governor because the evidence on record is Schedule of Payment and not evidence of actual payment. CW3 under cross examination by J.S. Okutepa SAN (See proceedings of 16th September 2019 volume 2) stated as follows on the issue, “Schedule of payment and actual payment is different. Until payment is made, approval to pay is not payment.” “Further on the claims on the issue of money, personal entitlements and office running imprest, CW5-The Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s office admitted under cross-examination by J.S. Okutepa (SAN) Deputy Governor’s lead counsel (See proceedings of 16th September 2019 volume 2 of this report) that from February 2018 to date, no money has been released for the running of the Deputy Governor’s office.
“He stated as follows: “From February 2018 till date He said security votes are to be given to the Deputy Governor’s office on monthly basis. From 2018 till date, we have not received security votes from the office of the Deputy Governor… Security votes by practice are not subject to government financial rules. Other salaries yet to be paid to other staff are still outstanding and unpaid. Schedule of payment does not translate to payment.”
“Putting all the foregoing together, and side by side with the evidence of the Deputy Governor in his deposition on oath from paragraph 17 (k), (l), (m)(vi), (m)(vii), (m)(viii), (m)(ix), (m)(x) and also his adoption of the evidence on oath and cross-examination. And considering the fact that the Deputy governor wrote Exhibit RP1- a letter to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria dated 6th August 2018, Exhibit RP2- letter to the Vice President of Nigeria, Exhibit RP3- a letter to the Secretary to the Federal Government, Exhibit RP4- a letter to the President of Nigeria on the same issue dated 28th of March, 2019, Exhibit RP5- another letter to the Vice President of Nigeria dated 28th March, 2019, and Exhibit RP6 – a letter to Adams Oshiomole, the National Chairman of the APC, all these go to show that the Deputy governor complained about non-payment of the salaries of his staff, security allowances, office running, etc.
“Interestingly, there is nothing before us to show that the complainants sent any correspondence to all these personalities to show that they had paid and that what the Deputy Governor was saying was not true. Neither was any response sent to the Deputy Governor’s lawyers in the same vein.