Tambuwal’s defection and police’ ominous reaction

Tambuwal’s defection and police’ ominous reaction

“In view of the recent defection by the Right Honourable Aminu Waziri Tanbuwal, CFR, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, from the People Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressive Congress (APC), and having regard to the clear provision of section 68(1)(g) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) has redeployed its personnel attached to his office.”

The above is how the Nigeria Police Force justified the decision of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to order the withdrawal of security personnel attached to Mr Tambuwal, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

While the Nigerian Constitution frowns upon defection by legislators and specifies they must lose their seats, it gives exception for such defection in certain circumstances. Politicians have since the first legislature of the current democratic rule, always tried to rely on that exception as justification for their defections. Until a court of competent jurisdiction decides whether any particular defection should receive the punishment, all other positions on the issue are mere academic and at best, legal opinions. On that score, Tambuwal cannot be seen as having lost his seat as member of the House of Representatives.

Assuming, but not admitting that the IGP is right to the interpretation above, the same constitutional section has also stated in subsection 2, how a defecting member can lose his/her seat in parliament. It gives power to the Speaker of the House to “give effect to the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, so however that the…Speaker of the House of Representatives or a member shall first present evidence satisfactory to the House concerned that any of the provisions of that subsection has become applicable in respect of that member. Clearly, the decision not to recognise a person as member of the House lies within the House.

Yet another argument raised by those not happy with Tambuwal’s defection is that since he no longer belongs to the majority party in the House, he cannot remain the Speaker. That again is mere wishful thinking and opinion, not the law and not the intendment of the Constitution. By Section 50(1)(b) of the Constitution, there shall be  a Speaker of the House of Representatives, “who shall be elected by the members of that House from among themselves”. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any requirement that the Speaker must belong to the party with a majority in the House or that the person must be nominated or sponsored to the position by a political party. Interestingly, Tambuwal’s emergence as Speaker ran contrary to the wishes of his party then, the PDP, which actually proposed another member for the position. Tambuwal however won the position on his own merit, owing to the trust he had with majority of the representatives.

That said, the only lawful means to remove a speaker of the House is as provided by the Constitution under Section 50(2)(c). And to do so, they require the votes of “not less than two-thirds majority of the members of that House”, which is 241 members for the 360-member House of Representatives. Therefore, even if, for the purpose of argument, it can be proved that the right to lead the House is reserved for members of the party in majority or that Tambuwal no longer commands the support of at least 241 members of the House, the only way to prove and effect that is at a duly-constituted session of the House.  

For the police IGP to therefore purport not to recognise Tambuwal as Speaker and proceed to withdraw security aides attached to his office is an abuse of power and must be condemned. It is indeed a sad day and season for our country. Sad, because the IGP has not only usurped the interpretative powers of the court over the Constitution, but more because even in the interpretation, he is clearly confusing the law with his opinion. The last time we saw such happen was under Obasanjo when he and his cohorts created for themselves, the power to interpret the Supreme Court judgment asking the Federal Government to release funds meant for the local governments in Lagos State.

It is sad because the IGP is the chief custodian of law and order but he seems to have moved too fast to take a position which questions the neutrality of the organisation he sits atop. It is sad because the IGP, either intentionally or unintentionally has descended into the political playing field. And trust our politicos; they will attack him on all sides. The APC will accuse him of working for PDP and if he tries to reverse himself, he will be attacked by the PDP. And when that happens he will have no one but himself to blame.

It is a sad day and season because the IGP’s action is a sad reminder of the era of IGP Sunday Adewusi (1981 to 1983), where the police were accused of working in cahoots with the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the 1983 general elections. Such unholy alliance was part of what brought the Second Republic of Nigeria to its disastrous end. Another general election season is here, with elections expected in 2015 and here we are dancing to a similar ominous dance. Is anyone thinking?

See also at: http://www.thenicheng.com/tambuwals-defection-polices-ominous-reaction/#sthash.MymYxqNQ.dpbs
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