Nigerian High Court Nullifies Impeachment Of Former Zamfara Deputy Governor, Mahdi Ali Gusau

AFederal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, nullified the impeachment of Mahdi Ali Gusau as the deputy governor of Zamfara state. 

SaharaReporters reported how members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly impeached Mahdi Ali Gusau as the state deputy governor in February 2022. 

He was impeached during plenary shortly after the House received the report of the committee set up by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Kulu Aliyu, to investigate the allegations of abuse of office, among others, levelled against him.

However, in a ruling on Wednesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that all the steps taken by the State Assembly and others regarding the impeachment of Gusau during the pendency of the petition in court were null and void.

Justice Ekwo described the action of the then-Speaker of the Assembly, former Governor Bello Matawalle, the state chief judge, and others as an aberration that could not be allowed to stand. 

He said they were of “no effect whatsoever.”

The trial judge was quoted by Daily Nigerian saying: “I agree with the learned silk for the plaintiff/applicant that the court must protect its dignity by reprimanding the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants (speaker, governor and chief judge) and undoing the steps, acts or proceedings taken in the impeachment while this suit was pending.”

The judge further found that, contrary to the position of counsel for the 5th to 38th defendants, he saw no legal authority referenced and relied on by the lawyer that authorised any litigant to conduct extra-judicial action while a matter was pending in court.

“Once parties have turned their dispute over to the court for determination, the right to resort to self-help ends.

“So, It is not permissible for one of the parties to take any step of complete helplessness, or which may give the impression that the court Is being used as a mere subterfuge, to tie the result of litigation and the appropriate order of court before acting further,” he said, citing a previous case.

The genesis of this matter could be traced to when Mr Matawalle, the three state’s senators, members of House of Representatives and that of House of Assembly all defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to All Progressives Congress (APC) on June 29, 2021.

Following their defection, the PDP and Gusau, the then-deputy governor who did not defect with them, filed a suit in an action marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/650/2021 to declare their seats vacant, having abandoned the party through which they rose to power.

As the first to fifth defendants, the plaintiffs sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the APC, the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Speaker of the Zamfara House of Assembly.

They requested a mandatory injunction ordering INEC to adopt the PDP candidate list provided for the purpose of holding and occupying the offices of governor, state and federal legislators.

They also sought an order for INEC to issue certificates of return to each of the said candidates for the purpose of holding and occupying the said offices purportedly occupied by members of the APC “in defiance of the decision of the Supreme Court in SC. 377/2019: APC v. Senator Kabiru Marafa and others for the unspent electoral term of office of May 29, 2019 to May 28, 2013.”

They also requested an injunction ordering the defendants to swear in Gusau as governor on the PDP platform to complete his term.

The FHC prevented the House of Assembly from proceeding with its scheduled impeachment of Gusau as deputy governor on July 19, 2021.

The decision was issued in response to an ex parte plea filed by the PDP’s counsel, Ogwu Onoja, in which he claimed that the House of Assembly, Matawalle, and others were plotting to impeach Gusau for refusing to switch to the APC.

Despite the court’s order, Gusau was impeached by the House of Assembly after it received the report of an investigative panel constituted by the chief judge, Kulu Aliyu.

Sahara Reporters