The Role Of Legislature In Impeachment Proceeding Under The 1999 Constitution Of Nigeria

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The Role Of Legislature In Impeachment Proceeding Under The 1999 Constitution Of Nigeria


The aim of this study is to explore the roles of Legislature in impeachment proceeding under the 1999 constitution.
The principal function of the Legislative arm of government is to legislate and make law for good governance in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. The Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives while the Legislative power of a state is vested in the State House of Assembly.

The Legislature has the power under the 1999 Constitution to impeach the Electoral Officers of both the executive and legislative arms of Government, such as the President and Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives and other elective Officers of the National and State Houses of Assembly.

The research considers the Constitutional provision which spell out the roles of the Legislative arm in impeachment of the President and Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governor, Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives, and the State House of Assembly.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

The Constitution of Nigeria clearly ensures the separation of powers as an underlining principle of the Nigerian governmental system. Separation of powers allows typical division of branches of government into a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary. It can be contrasted with the fusion or combination of powers like in the case of a parliamentary system, where the executive and legislature sometimes parts of the judiciary are unified, for the purpose of governance. Separation of powers as underlining principle of governance vests legislative power of the Federal Government in the National Assembly. It provides thus: The legislative power of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be vested in a National Assembly for the Federation which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representative.1

The National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature established under section 4 of the Nigerian Constitution. It consists of a Senate and a 360-member House of Representatives. The body, modeled after the federal Congress of the United States, is supposed to guarantee equal representation of the states irrespective of size in the Senate and proportional representation of population in the House. The National Assembly, like many other organs of government has functions such law making, checking of other organs of government, especially the executive, representation etc. the mechanism in which the legislature uses in sanctioning the executive when there is any misconduct is the impeachment process.

The Impeachment process has become a topical issue on the Constitutional development of Nigeria. The starting point was the impeachment of Alhaji Balarabe Musa former Governor of Kaduna State2. It has been contained that impeachment has been so much abused by the State Assemblies who do it without recourse to laid down Constitutional measures.[1]

No proceeding or determination of the panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entrained or questioned in any Court. This provision ousted the jurisdiction of the Court in matter relating to impeachment embarked upon by the Legislature.

Impeachment rarely occurs therefore the term is often misunderstood. [2]The word impeachment derives its root from a latin expression to be caught or entrapped. Thus impeachment as a Constitutional process is not designed as a weapon of political oppression, suppression or harassment of a President or Governor whose face the Legislature does not want to behold any longer in the power.

However, impeachment when used appropriately will put the government of the day on its toes, thereby making such government responsible and accountable.

Impeachment was first employed in the Nigerian history during the second republic in the case of Balarabe Musa, former Governor of Kaduna State. Since then impeachment process has become a topical issue in Nigeria’s Constitutional development.

The purpose of impeachment has been abused by the Legislature, who use impeachment as a tool of oppression and intimidation for those in impeachment proceeding is worth nothing. A proper study of these impeachment proceeding has shown the legality or otherwise.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

In Nigeria Constitutional history, there have been four Constitutions. These are the 1960, 1963, 1979 and the 1999 Constitution respectively. Although there existed and still existing provisions from the removal of executive office holders like the President.

This power vested on the legislature, which is sacred, aimed at checking abuse of office by President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors, was unfortunately turned to an instrument of political vendetta to embarrass, intimidate, and hoodwink the executive (Enyia,2009). This impeachment saga in Nigeria is replete only with the removal of Governors of the Federating States and some Chairmen at the Local Government level in some States.

The process of impeachment of different political office holders is clearly stated in different sections of the constitution depending on the nature of office. Hence, breach of procedures is usually one of the major challenge confronting the role of the legislature in this process. The discretion in using this tool of impeachment is very much within the discretion of the legislature in this case the state or national of assembly. This exercise of this discretion is implicit in the wording of Section 188 (2) (b) stating, “that the holder of such office is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office”.

The term ‘gross misconduct’ is defined in Section 188 (11) as, “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion in the House of Assembly to gross misconduct”. This in itself is a very subjective test and in the absence of further definition in the constitution reliance is placed on the general dictionary definition of the term and what obtains in Employment law where the term is commonly used in contracts of employment.

Gross misconduct can be defined as an unacceptable and wrong act by someone in a position of authority and responsibility. Reliance is once again placed on the three principles established in the U.S.A that gross misconduct can be established. It is respectfully submitted that without these three ingredients, the Impeachment proceedings cannot be effective. Corruption in its sense is a major challenging factor to the legislatures in delivery this responsibility due to personal interest.

1.3. Objective of Study

The main objective of this study is to determine the roles of Legislature in impeachment proceedings under the 1999 Constitution.. The role of the legislature will be considered on impeachment proceedings, the loopholes of such proceedings and make recommendations to curb the lapses created by these loopholes. This research work will examine the problems arising from the Constitutional provisions dealings on impeachment of elected Officials in Nigeria. This study will also consider the Legislative arm of government as a mechanism to checking and investigating Officials alleged of partaking on corruption while in office through the principle of checks and balances.

1.4 Methodology

The research work will employ a library based methodology as emphases will be laid on primary sources to include; relevant statues, legislations, Reported Judicial Authorities etc. The Secondary data will be obtain from materials such as Newspapers, articles by Legal authors, Internet resources, seminar papers, Textbooks. These will in no doubt give an holistic approach to achieving the objectives of the study.

1.5 Significance of the Study

The findings of this study when concluded will be useful to the following categories of people:

  1. Executive arm of government: They would be aware of the need of avoiding certain official misconduct both at state and federal level in other to avoid being impeached.
  2. State and National Assembly: as members of the law making bodies, it will help them to realize the responsibility they are committed to, by delivering their responsibility with all amount of diligence.
  3. Prospective public office holders: this study will act as guide to all intending public office to enable them understand the do and don’ts of public offices to enable them apply caution and avoid impeachment.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This long essay is limited to the role the legislature performs during impeachment proceedings. This research work would be confirmed to the definition of impeachment historical perspective, the roles of the three arms of Government on impeachment matters.

The Constitutional provision and role of Courts of record, i.e. High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court on impeachment matters and cases will be delved into in order to compare and analyze the decision of the Courts.

Nevertheless, it may incidentally refer to some other related areas as deemed

necessary, likewise statutory and judicial authorities will be made reference to, in order to achieve the aim of the study.

Chapter Five

General Conclusion

5.0. Conclusion

Chapter one of this work contained the introduction to the subject matter of impeachment. It dealt with the primary assignment of the legislature which is to make law for the peace, order and good government of the federation and any part thereof, and how the legislative power of making law has been characterized by radical changes. The powers of legislature now include power of impeachment. This chapter also examines the aims and objectives of the study, the scope of the study and methodology.

Chapter two traced the historical background of impeachment from it’s etimology to the time it was introduced into the Republican constitution of 1963. This chapter also considered the impeachment proceeding under the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It also took a critical overview of the impeachment of Alhaji Balarabe Musa. Balarabe Musa was the executive governor of Kaduna state from 1stOct, 1979 till 11th May 1981, when his ordeal started. On that day, the speaker served the notice of impeachment on the governor. He was subsequently removed on June 23rd, 1981.

In addition, this chapter also examined the impeachment proceeding as provided for under the 1989 constitution Similarly, chapter three detailed the legal framework for impeachment proceedings as provided under S.143 and S.188 of the 1999 constitution. This chapter also considered the impeachment proceeding in the legislative houses right from the 1999constitution to the 1999 constitution.

Ipso facto, the legislative arm of government has witnessed so much chaos since the independence in 1960. This chapter therefore took an overview of how the legislators have turned the legislative hallowed chambers into a den of motor parts touts. Most importantly, chapter four critically assessed the impeachment proceeding under our present constitution, 1999 constitution, how it has been used by both the legislators and the politicians.

Impeachment, though originally conceived as a check on the executive lawlessness and rascality, it has now been reduced to a political weapon in the hands of politicians to be used upon the exercise of political judgment against political office holders. This chapter also briefly examined the political experience of impeachment in Nigeria, most especially since 1999 when we started this democratic experiment. Even though some have argued that 1999 constitution does not indicate the word‘ impeachment’; however by virtue of S.143 and S.188 of the same constitution, the operative word is then to be assumed that the framers of the constitution intended impeachment. Accordingly ‘impeachment’ was defined by Micheal Garherdt as78: ‘an inherent political process designed to expose and remedy political crisis subject neither to judicial nor presidential veto’. It is a unique congressional power that involves both political and constitutional consideration, including the gravity of the offence charged, the harm to the constitutional order and the link between an official misconduct and duties.

As said earlier on, impeachment proceeding was originally intended to check the executive lawlessness. Infact, it was borne out of the English parliament’s long struggle to strip the king and his ministers of their absolute powers and to expand the right of the people. Thus, it was intended to reach persons of the highest rank and power with the crown, who by virtue of their elevated positions, are above the reach of the ordinary complaint or private individual.

However, after the careful consideration of this study, it is discovered not to my dismay however, that the original intendment of impeachment has been lost to the political tide. Impeachment proceeding was meant to be last extreme resort by the legislature but it has now been trivialized and reduced to a routine weapon of political vendetta. It is now being used as a sword to deal with all governors or politicians on the wrong side of political affection and presidential calculations. Therefore, one is bound to conclude that the impeachment proceeding as provided under the 1999 constitution is now being used as sword, which was not actually the original intention of the framers of the constitution. A political office holder can now be impeached on frivolous charge, which ordinarily does not constitute misconduct let alone gross misconduct. A political office holder is now liable to face impeachment if he‘ unreasonably’ refuses to settle his godfathers as and when they demand.

Impeachment proceeding has now been grossly politicized, it is a well known fact that none of the impeachment proceedings that have taken place so far in his dispensation is devoid input of the presidency, the EFCC vis-à-vis the ruling PDP acting as shadow direction in the impeachment of any of the governors or the deputy.

This they allegedly do by inciting the members of the State House of Assembly to either remove the speaker of House or replace him with his deputy whom they believe will do their bidding or face the music of EFCC-Economic and Financial Crime Commission.

It is therefore no exaggeration that impeachment proceeding has become an instrument of intimidation to be used upon the exercise of political judgment against political office holders.

Nevertheless, there were still instances where impeachment proceeding was used lawfully and in accordance within its intendment. But where it has been lawfully used, is infinitesimal when compared with where it has been used in the negative sense.


Having examined this study meticulously, there is no doubt about the fact that the impeachment proceeding as provided under the 1999 constitution has been grossly misused by our legislators.

In order to avert the imminent danger that may follow a further politicization of impeachment proceeding in Nigeria, the following recommendations will therefore be made accordingly.

Firstly, considering the statistics of the impeachment political office holders since coming into force of the 1999 constitution, it is glaringly clear that Deputy Governors have been the highest casualties. It is therefore recommended that there should be an amendment to the constitution to harmonize the relationship between the two offices and specific functions and roles should be assigned to the office of the Deputy Governor.

Secondly, under the 1999 constitution impeachment offence is categorized as ‘gross violation or breach of the provision of this constitution or a misconduct of such nature’ as in the opinion of the National Assembly (or State House of Assembly) amounts to gross misconduct.

It is therefore suggested that there should be an amendment to the provision of Section 188(11) and Section 143(11) 1999 constitution in such a way that what constitutes gross misconduct will be specific though not to be too narrow.

Thirdly, agreed that the issue of god-fatherism cannot be totally eradicated in Africa as a whole and Nigeria, to be specific but there should be a limit to what they can and cannot do. It is high time we started seeing god-fatherism as an evil and not as a virtue.

Fourthly, it has been noticed that many of them go into politics not to serve the masses but to enlarge their private pockets. It is therefore suggested that civil education should be introduced into our school curriculum at both primary and secondary school levels, where young men and women will be taught on how to imbibe the spirit of love and service to their fatherland.

Fifthly, the level of poverty in Nigeria has attained an astronomical rate to the extent that many people are now practically dying of hunger. It is therefore suggested that our government should be more serious in their ‘fight’ against poverty and corruption.

Finally, there have been a lot of debates on the need or otherwise of subsection 10 of both sections 143 and 188 of the 1999 constitution. However it is strongly recommended that there should be a constitutional review whereby this subsection would be totally expunged from our constitution.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the House of Representatives in impeachment?

The House brings impeachment charges against federal officials as part of its oversight and investigatory responsibilities. Individual Members of the House can introduce impeachment resolutions like ordinary bills, or the House could initiate proceedings by passing a resolution authorizing an inquiry.

What is the impeachment process?

The process includes the filing of formal charges, which at the federal level is performed by the U.S. House of Representatives, and the resulting trial, which is conducted by the U.S. Senate. In the House of Representatives, an individual representative can initiate impeachment by introducing a bill.

Which Court has the sole power to impeach an official?

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials.

Who was the first President impeached by the House of Representatives?

Johnson became the first president impeached by the House, but he was later acquitted by the Senate by one vote. The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials.

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