The Supreme Court on Friday nullified the impeachment of Taraba Deputy Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Danladi, and ordered that he should sworn-in immediately, thereby, removing Acting Gov. Garba Umar from office.
Danladi was impeached by Taraba legislators on Oct. 4, 2012 and replaced by Umar, who became acting governor, following Gov. Danbaba Suntai?s involvement in plane crash.
The apex court in the lead judgment delivered by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, held that Danladi was denied fair hearing and was wrongfully impeached by the state?s House of Assembly.
The unanimous judgment had justices Samuel Onnoghen, Bode Rhodes-
Vivour, Kumayi Aka’ahs, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and John Okoro on its appeal panel.
The court also declared the sitting of the 19-member Taraba House of Assembly who sat at a guest house belonging to the Majority Leader to prepare the impeachment notice as illegal.
The court held that by sitting at a venue other than the hallowed chambers of the House of Assembly, the lawmakers breached Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
It held that “in effect, at all material times, the appellant, Alhaji Sani Abubakar Danladi, remained and still remains the deputy governor of Taraba State and he is to resume his interrupted duties of his office
“Impeachment of elected politicians is a very serious matter and should not be conducted as a matter of course. It has implications for the impeached and the electorate, who bestowed the mandate on him.
“Whether it takes one day or the three months prescribed by law, the rules of due process must be strictly followed.
“If the matter is left at the whims and caprices of politicians and their panels, a state or even the entire country could be reduced to a status of banana republic,” Ogwuta said.
The court further faulted the composition of the seven-man panel set up by the lawmakers to investigate the allegations of misconduct against the deputy governor, saying he was denied fair hearing.
Danladi, the court said, was denied the opportunity to prepare his defence or present his case before the panel.
According to Justice Ngwuta, the impeachment panel was a kangaroo panel which worked based on a conspiracy between it and the lawmakers.
Ngwuta said “My noble lords, the impact of what happened in the panel on the country’s impeachment jurisprudence is too alarming to contemplate.
“Here is a panel that had three months to investigate the serious allegations of gross misconduct against the appellant, yet it concluded within six days.
Danladi had approached the Taraba High Court to challenge his purported impeachment, but the trial court gave judgment against him.
He appealed to the Court of Appeal, Yola Division, but the Appeal court on July 19, 2013, affirmed the High Court?s judgment.
The deputy governor further appealed against the Yola Court of Appeal?s decision to the Supreme Court, which gave judgment in his favour on Friday.