he Speaker of Niger State House of Assembly, Adamu Usman, in this exclusive interview with ABU NMODU in Minna, spoke on teething constitutional lacuna in the House, the governor and the deputy, as well as inability of some members to secure second term tickets of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. Excerpt:
The governor has handed over to you while traveling. How far has this compromised the constitution of Nigeria given that the Deputy Governor is around?
I think there is no compromise with respect to the performance of the function of the state. The governor, the deputy governor and the speaker are all elected officers as contained in the constitution. In Niger State, we have 29 people holding elective offices. By Section 190 of the constitution, you find out that the governor’s function and his absence, including the responsibility of the deputy governor have been really assigned. However, if you look at Section 193, it says
that the governor at his discretion assigns any job to the deputy governor or any commissioner, in his absence.
So, if there is no express mention, you look at those two laws, particularly Section 193. Even there is no express mention of the speaker. Whatever the governor at his discretion decides particularly when the speaker is an elected officer because assuming the governor is not on seat and certain thing happens you will find out that the speaker should at various levels be asked to take over.
The governor and his deputy have a joint ticket; it is not that the deputy is on his own. He does not clearly have a defined role so therefore if the governor chooses to exercise his discretion that this is the person I want to perform the job for me as long as that performance of that job is within the ambit of the constitution I think it is not an aberration and it is not contrary to the constitution.
The assumption is that when the governor is traveling, given that the deputy governor was his running mate, it makes it automatic for the deputy governor to take over. I am saying it is not an aberration because you don’t read one section the constitution in isolation. There are several sections; Sections 190 and 193 say even a commissioner, even not elected, if the governor decides that to assign certain responsibility, at his discretion, to a commissioner, while travelling, it will still be legal. It is not an aberration. I am still saying it is not aberration because I am also elected just like the governor is elected; I have constitutional responsibility.
You recently declared two seats vacant in the house of assembly. But there are rumour making the rounds that you might have been induced by the executive to carry out this act. This is one of the things we need to put straight, which is why we need to develop the constitution. We need to be bold whenever issues come up. I want to emphasize that we have a caucus in Niger State PDP that comprises of all the elected members of the PDP.
When this issue of defection came up last year, at our caucus meeting in the House Of assembly, we advised Hon. Bashir Lokogoma of the legal implication of defection. Good enough, I am a lawyer, I drew hisattention to Section 109, Sub section 1G; also Sub section 2 of the same section. What are the implications? They are that if you are defecting, you can only be allowed to remain in the office as a member if there are factions in PDP.
But in Niger State, there was none. The constitution in Section 109 Sub section 2 gives the Speaker the power based on evidence that so so person has defected, to declare the seat vacant. It is when you declare it vacant then the other person that disagrees can go to court.
There is also this rumour that the governor has written to the House of Assembly to start the process of impeaching the deputy governor. How true is this?
This is another figment of people’s imagination. Under Section 188 of 1999 Constitution, you cannot say you want to impeach the governor or the deputy governor merely because he has defected. If you observe within the ambit of 1999 Constitution, so far I have not heard where a governor or a deputy governor, who has defected and you say you are commencing his impeachment process.
We have cases of deputy governors defecting; we have so many of them like that of Nasarawa state. He defected from APC to PDP. Till now, he is still working. What I am trying to say is that there was no such letter and under Section 188, it is not the governor that will write to us. Even if there is such a move, at least one third of members’ petition must be addressed to the Speaker and say okay we have signed.
Mr. Speaker, these are allegations against so so person and therefore we give you notice to proceed with impeachment, I have never seen a letter neither have I heard of any move.
Would you say all is okay in the house given that less than 50 per cent members of the house are unable to secure the party’s ticket for another term?
If you observe, there is nowhere in a democracy where somebody who was not able to secure a ticket is not aggrieved. Naturally, we have aggrieved people but we are able to let them understand that is Allah that takes and it is Allah that gives. So, if you observe the house, we have forgotten about the post primary crisis. Every member was facing the challenges of real elections both those that actually got the ticket and those that didn’t get the ticket were involved in campaigning, those who are not coming back are thinking of what they would be doing after leaving this place, they have their own plans.