Nigerian legal luminaries have learnt their voices to the impeachment saga rocking the Senate, saying it would take about 73 senators or more to remove the Senate President or his deputy from office by virtue of Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution.
According to Sunday Punch, some of the legal experts who spoke on the issue are Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), and Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
Others are, Kayinsola Ajayi (SAN), Fidelis Oditah (SAN), Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), and Mr. Roland Otaru (SAN).
They insisted that Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution referred to two-thirds of the 109 senators as opposed to two-thirds of those present on the floor, to legally impeach any presiding officer of a legislature.
Olanipekun urged Nigerians to respect the rule of law instead of always trying to undermine the constitution.
The former president of the Nigeria Bar Association, whose chambers handled the celebrated case of, Abegunde Vs Ondo State House of Assembly, and the upturning of the impeachment of former Governor Rashidi Ladoja, said the Supreme Court had ruled on the case of processes in legislative houses and how persons can be impeached.
He said, “Those arguing the matter should look at the celebrated case in which the impeachment of Ladoja was nullified. They should read the Supreme Court decision on the case that brought Peter Obi back as governor as well as that of former Governor Joshua Dariye.
“For me, it is very straightforward and I want to believe that what is going on is that we don’t respect the judgments of the Supreme Court. In civilised climes, once the apex court has given a decision on a subject, you don’t argue it even if you don’t agree. It is like solving a mathematical equation.
“On what is two thirds as envisaged by the constitution, the Supreme Court agreed with us that it refers to the total number of members as demanded by the constitution and not a fraction.”
Ozekhome said, “It will take 73 senators, not 24, to remove Dr Bukola Saraki as Senate President. Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution did not talk of members present and voting.
He added that the Court of Appeal had laid the debate to rest in the case of the National Assembly v The President, FRN (2003), where Justice George Oguntade (retd.) held in the lead judgment that, “In order to override the President’s veto, there must be at least 73 members in the Senate and at least 240 members in the House of Representatives.”
Also, two professors of Law and senior advocates of Nigeria, Kayinsola Ajayi and Fidelis Oditah (QC), said the two-thirds referred to by the Constitution was two-thirds of 109 senators.
Oditah said, “The section states that it is two-thirds of members, which, prima facie, means two-thirds of 109.
The SAN noted that with the way the law was structured, it was “virtually impossible to remove an erring Senate President.”
Ajayi, who also aligned his thoughts with that of both Ozekhome and Oditah, said it would take two-thirds of “all living senators” to remove the Senate President.
Similarly, Otaru argued that the two-thirds majority provided for in the constitution is that of all the members of the Senate and not just a fraction.
He said, “This has been given judicial interpretation in the case of Asogwa vs Chukwu (2003) 4 NWLR PT 811 Page 540, where the Court of Appeal interpreted the provisions of Sections 101 & 102 of the 1999 constitution as it relates to the removal of the Speaker of the House.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, Falana said the Senate President can only be removed by two thirds of the entire Senate and not just two thirds of the members present.
He said the case had been decided by the Court of Appeal and the matter had not been challenged.
On his own part, Adedipe, urged the Federal Government and the ruling party to adhere to the rule of law.
He said, “The constitution is not something you tamper with. It lays down the framework for governance and it is not unmindful of the peccadilloes of our people. If it were to be two thirds of members present, nothing would prevent 20 senators from impeaching the Senate President.