Nigerian governor impeached for corruption

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Nigerian governor impeached for corruption

Postby Richard Akindele » Mon Oct 16, 2006 5:49 pm

LAGOS, Nigeria (Reuters) -- Lawmakers impeached the governor of Nigeria's Ekiti state for corruption on Monday in a process criticized by the judiciary as unconstitutional.

Analysts saw the impeachment of Governor Ayodele Fayose and his deputy as further evidence of President Olusegun Obasanjo tightening his grip over the ruling party ahead of landmark elections in Africa's most populous country next year.

"The governor and his deputy were impeached on the floor of the house this morning. Twenty-two of 24 members voted for their removal," said Benjamin Famoyegun, clerk of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, by phone from the state capital, Ado Ekiti.

The speaker of the state assembly will be sworn in later Monday as acting governor, he added.

The impeachment comes weeks after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the graft-busting agency set up by Obasanjo in 2003, accused more than half of the country's 36 governors of corruption.

"I am happy with it. I think it is a good development for our country," EFCC chairman Nuhu Ribadu told reporters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Critics of the president say he is using corruption charges as a weapon to cripple political opposition, leaving him a free hand to control the first democratic transition of power in Nigerian history.

The media accused Ekiti lawmakers of violating the constitution and contributing to rising political tension in Africa's top oil exporter amid a public fight for political supremacy between Obasanjo and Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

"The action of the Ekiti state lawmakers amounts to an invitation to chaos and social disorder," Vanguard newspaper said in an editorial.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria said in a statement published Monday that the Ekiti speaker broke the constitution when he suspended the state's chief judge and appointed someone else in his stead last week.

The new judge set up a panel that returned a guilty verdict on the governor days later.

Under Nigeria's 1999 constitution, only a state governor can remove a chief judge, with the backing of two-thirds majority of the house, or with the recommendation of the National Judicial Commission.

"This is anarchy writ large," The Sun newspaper said in a front-page editorial on Monday.

"In its ostensible bid to fight corruption, the president and his cohorts are inflicting more corruption on the system. They have violated democratic norms," it added.

Obasanjo, a former military ruler, cannot stand in next year's election but is determined to control the transition, political insiders say. He needs loyal governors to control the outcome of party primaries in December.

At least one person was killed and two others injured on Friday as police shot into a crowd of supporters protesting against a similar attempt to remove the governor of the central state of Plateau.

Analysts question the validity of the Plateau impeachment bid since lawmakers voting against the governor add up to fewer than the two-thirds required by the constitution, and because they are all in custody on corruption charges themselves.

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