Impeaching a sitting President in Nigeria is a very serious matter. It is serious not simply because it amounts to effectively ‘sacking’ the number one citizen of the country, but also because it amounts to reversing the of a majority of the citizens of Nigerians, who have placed the President in that office for a stated term by voting for the President in a Presidential election.
Due to the severity of the issue, the process for impeaching a President is pretty stringent and is contained in the one document which has a very strict process and procedure for amendment- The Nigerian Constitution. The process for impeaching a President in Nigeria is contained in Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution.
Steps for impeaching the President:
A notice of any allegation in writing alleging gross misconduct on the part of the President. This notice must be signed by not less than one-third of the members of the National Assembly (both the Senate and House of Representatives) is presented to the Senate President.
* Gross misconduct is defined by the Constitution as ‘…a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.’
The Senate President must within 7 days, serve the President and each member of the National Assembly with a copy of the notice of allegation.
The President has a right of reply (he/she does not have to reply however), and any such statement in reply to the allegation must be served on each member of the National Assembly.
Within 14 days of the presentation of the notice to the Senate President, each House of the National Assembly shall resolve by motion without any debate whether or not the allegation shall be investigated. This motion needs to be passed by at least two-thirds majority of all members of each House of Assembly.
If the motion fails to reach the required majority, the process immediately stops, and no further action will be taken. However, if the required majority is obtained and the motion is passed, then the Senate President will within 7 days of the passing of the motion, request the Chief Justice of Nigeria to appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity to investigate the allegations. The members of the Panel cannot be members of any public service, legislative house or political party.
The Panel is to report its findings within three months of being appointed. The findings will be reported to each House of the National Assembly. During the proceedings of the Panel, the President shall have a right to defend himself, and shall also have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of his/her choice.
Where the Panel reports that the allegation has not been proven, there will be no further action. However, if the report is that the allegation against the President has been proven, then the National Assembly will consider the report, and a resolution for the adoption of the report shall be moved.
For the resolution to be adopted, it must be supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of each House. Once adopted the President shall stand removed from office as from the date of the adoption of the report.
CONSEQUENCES OF IMPEACHMENT
Upon the adoption of the report by two-thirds majority of the National Assembly, the President stands impeached, and most immediately vacate the office of President.The office of the President will pass to the incumbent Vice-President, and he will take the oath of office.Once the resolution is adopted, there is no recourse to any court of law or judicial proceedings. The President cannot challenge the decision of the panel or the National Assembly.The President is normally entitled, upon vacation of office, to a pension for life at the rate equivalent to the annual salary of the incumbent President. He loses this pension for life upon impeachment.Where the President is impeached, and the Office of the Vice-President is vacant at the time, then the President of the Senate shall hold the office of President for a period of not more than three months, during which there shall be an election of a new President, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office.
*Although once the impeachment resolution is passed, the impeachment cannot be normally challenged, however, recent court cases have established that, the clear position of the law the courts are empowered to determine the legality or otherwise of the process leading up to the removal of the elected official. In other words, though the impeachment can’t be challenged in court, the process leading up to the impeachment can be challenged in court.