George Okoh, in Lafia, examines tense relationship between Nasarawa State Governor Tanko Al-Makura and the House of Assembly, which has culminated in the impeachment move against the governor
The stormy relationship between the Nasarawa State House of Assembly and Governor Tanko Al-Makura had been thinly veiled for a long time.
It had raised concern among residents of the state, many of who knew the tension between the executive and opposition-dominated legislature would one day burst. What was not clear was when and how that would happen.
So when recently the 20 Peoples Democratic Party members of the Assembly moved for Al-Makura’s impeachment, it was hardly surprising to residents and indigenes of Nasarawa State.
The relationship between the executive and legislative arms of government was anything but cordial, as the Assembly continued to set booby traps for the governors. The frosty relation reached a boiling point last week when the Assembly asked the Clerk of the house, Ego Maikeffi, to serve Al-Makura an impeachment notice after accusing him of 16 offences bordering on gross misconduct. All 20 PDP lawmakers in the house endorsed the move during a sitting presided over by the speaker, Ahmed Mohammed.
Of the Assembly’s 24 members, only four are in the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state.
The impeachment notice seemed to confirm earlier reports that the state’s lawmakers had met at a guest house in Asokoro district of Abuja last week to hatch a plan to remove Al-Makura from office.
The attempt to impeach Al-Makura is coming on the heels of the impeachment of the Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako. Many believe the move to remove Al-Makura is part of a deliberate attempt by the PDP-led federal government to weaken the APC in the state ahead of the general elections next year.
Al-Makura’s special adviser on special Duties, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said some unseen hands in the Presidency were behind the impeachment notice to the governor.
Abdullahi alleged that proxies, which included a minister from Nasarawa State, some National Assembly members from the state, and a point man from the South-south currently at the national conference, were being used to execute the plot.
Abdullahi said some selfish individuals had sold the impeachment idea to the presidency as a way of making PDP to reclaim the governorship of the state. He alleged that financial inducements were involved in the process, which, according to him, has been supported by the deputy governor, Damishi Luka, to actualise his longstanding ambition of becoming the state governor with the speaker as deputy governor.
“If this is not coming from the Presidency, why did the IG of Police deploy 160 mobile policemen to guard the Assembly and the members to hatch the plan? This is the largest single deployment in peace time,”
Abdullahi said. “When over 70 security personnel were killed at Alakyo, the IGP did not deploy personnel to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators. But he finds it convenient to deploy mobile policemen to perfect an impeachment plot.”
This is the second time the house is making a move to remove the governor from office. In August 2013, the house had summoned the governor for allegedly flouting its resolutions. The Majority Leader, Godiya Akwashiki, a PDP member representing Nasarawa Eggon West, said they were uncomfortable with the governor’s penchant for rejecting and disobeying the legislature’s resolutions.
Among other things, the lawmakers were also said to be unhappy with the governor over an alleged disclosure by his aides that lawmakers were paid N300 million leave grant by the governor and a quarterly constituency project fund of N10 million for each member since the beginning of Al-Makura’s tenure.
The Assembly had passed a resolution that the state government should reverse the naming of transport schemes and new school buildings Ta’al, a name similar to the governor’s popular acronym and registered company named Ta’al Nigeria. A source said the governor could lay claim to the public assets in the future.
The house, therefore, resolved that the name of all model schools named Ta’al be changed and the blue colour the school buildings were painted be changed because it symbolised the colour of the Congress for Progressive Change, the governor’s original party, which is now part of the APC coalition.
On November 3 last year, lawmakers resolved to set up an ad hoc committee to look into reports presented by four standing committees which carried out on oversight of the government between May 29, 2011 and November of 2013.
The ad hoc committee was mandated to look into reports of the house committees on public accounts, health, local government and chieftaincy affairs, commerce and industry, and capital market, and report to the Assembly for further deliberation.
The house has since received reports from four of the five committees.
The public accounts committee report alleged extra-budgetary expenditure of about N3 billion by the Government House, Deputy Governor’s Office and the office of the Secretary to the State Government. It said of the N400 million Federal Government flood intervention fund of 2012, only about N100 million had been properly utilised, and N100 was found to have been improperly spent. The remaining N300 million was kept with the state emergency relief agency.
The three committees also accused the government of various financial misconducts, including extra-budgetary spending and misappropriation.
But a member of the Assembly representing Awe South constituency, Aliyu Umaru, told reporters last year that the resolution to invite
Al-Makura to appear before the lawmakers was not connected with any plan to commence impeachment proceedings against the governor.
“It’s a normal activity as a house, we are doing our job,” Umaru had said.
The present impeachment move against Al-Makura is generally seen as part of a PDP scheme to win the governorship of the state in 2015. The PDP is alleged to have directed its members to make life uncomfortable for the governor and discredit his government if he cannot be impeached.
The PDP state chairman has continued to accuse Al-Makura of corruption and non-performance, with the governor constantly under pressure to defend his policies.
In a recent interview, the governor said its bloated workforce was a major drag on its meagre resources.
“I would say it is a paradox. We want to be part of the international community by keying into the rave of the world, which is democracy.
But our democracy comes at a huge cost if you look at the arms of government and the amount they get, viz, what goes to the populace.
And you may wonder if the democracy is worth it,” Al-Makura was quoted as saying. “Take my state, for instance, where 1% takes more than 90% of the revenue accruing to the state. If you look at the salaries, emoluments and allowances of officials of the executive, legislature, judiciary, civil service and so on, and put the cost together and compare it with what is left for development you will discover that it is 5 % or less. And all the people benefitting from this are less than 1% of the population.”
He continued, “Of the N2.7 billion monthly allocations we get, our wage bill first charge is about N2.4 billion. So we have only N300 million to spend on everything else, including building infrastructure and taking care of security challenges. In fact, at the end I have only about N100million left for capital projects, if not for internally generated revenue that has improved.
“When I came there were even months when I had less than N100million for capital projects. I realised that I was just a paymaster. Once the end of the month comes, all we do is give out monies because these are statutory payments. How can we then develop? And I cannot overnight change statutory allocations to any arm of government.”
But with the wind of impeachment now threatening to blow him down, Al-Makura would need to make strategic changes, at least, to try to repair his relationship with the Assembly. But it is doubtful if any changes on the part of the governor can steer the lawmakers away from the course of impeachment.