The recent removal of Oruk Anam Vice Chairman, Abasiama Etukakpan, from office by councilors in the area over alleged falsification of his age has drawn the bile of Civil Liberties Organisation, Akwa Ibom State Chapter.
A press release dated March 31 and signed by the state Chairman of CLO, Otuekong Franklyn Isong and Comrade Christopher Ekpo, Secretary for other members, said the organization is disturbed that Oruk Anam Legislative Council circumvented the procedure laid down in section 44 of the Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, 2017 for the removal of a Chairman or Vice-Chairman.
On March 23, 2021, 14 out of 16 councilors in Oruk Anam voted and removed Etukakpan, on allegation of falsification of age, which, according to them, was in violation of the provision of the relevant sections of the Akwa Ibom state Local Government Administration Law.
“It has come to the notice of the Honorable Councilors in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state that the Vice Chairman, Hon. Abasiama Etukakpan, submitted certificates with highly questionable and fraudulent dates to critical institutions in the course of his quest to become the Vice Chairman.
“In the certificate of birth for instance, Abasiama Etukakpan claims that he was born on October 17, 1992, whereas in his West African Examination Council (WAEC) certificate, the same Abasiama, is said to have been born on March 1, 1998”.
According to the Councilors, the discrepancies violated “the provisions of the section 36 and 43 (2) of the Akwa Ibom state Local Government Administration Law,2017, which clearly states that a person shall not be qualified to hold office of Vice Chairman, if he has not the mandatory age of 30”.
They argued that “if Abasiama was born in 1992, as he claimed in his birth certificate, the implication is that he was 28 years old as at 2020, when he presented himself for the election.”
In the same vein, the Councilors noted that “If Abasiama was born in 1998, as claimed in his WAEC certificate, the implication is that he was only 22 years old as at 2020 when he presented himself for the election, eight years short of the mandatory 30 years required by law.”
However, section 44 of the Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, 2017 states as follows:
“(1) The Chairman or Vice-Chairman may be removed from office in accordance with the provisions of this section.
(2) A notice of allegation of gross misconduct against a holder of the office of the Chairman of Vice-Chairman shall be presented to the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly in writing signed by not less the two-third of the members of the Legislative Council.
(3) The notice of allegation shall specify the details of the allegations and shall state that the holder of the office is guilty of gross misconduct in the functions of the office.
(4) Upon the receipt of the notice under sub-section (2) of this section, the Clerk shall cause a copy of the notice to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the Legislative Council.
(5) In addition, the Legislative Council shall cause any statement made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation to be served on each member of the Legislative Council and the State House of Assembly.
(6) Within seven days of the presentation of the notice to the State House of Assembly (whether or not any statement was made by the holder of the office in reply to the allegation contained in the notice), the House of Assembly shall resolve by motion whether or not the allegation shall be investigated.
(7) A motion of the House of Assembly that the allegation shall be investigated shall not be declared as having been passed unless it is supported by the votes of simple majority of members of the House of Assembly present at the sitting.
(8) On passing the motion under the foregoing provision of this section, the House of Assembly shall immediately appoint a panel of seven members of the State House of Assembly to investigate the allegations against the holder of the office.
(9) The holder of an office whose conduct is being investigated under this section shall have the right to defend himself in person or by a legal practitioner of his own choice.
(10) A panel appointed under this section shall report its findings to the State House of Assembly within one month of its appointment and shall have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with the procedure as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly.
(11) Where the panel’s report to the House of Assembly is that the allegations have not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter and the House of Assembly shall within seven days of the receipt of the report recall the holder of the office.
(12) Where the report of the panel is that the allegations against the holder of the office have been proved, then within 14 days of the receipt of the report, the House of Assembly shall consider the report.
(13) The House of Assembly, by a resolution supported by not less than two-thirds majority of all its members, shall adopt the report of the panel and the holder of the office stands removed from the date of the adoption of the report.
(14) In this section “gross misconduct” means a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Law, the Constitution or Criminal Code.”
Vice Chairman’s Press statement
Abasiama stating his position in WhatsApp platforms penned ‘’I want to sincerely thank God Almighty, my parents, family members, my supporters, the good people of Oruk Anam Local Government Area and the general public for their support, prayers and goodwill messages during these times. My sincere prayer is that the God of Justice, to whom all powers belong to and who rules over the affairs of all men shall at the appointed time vindicate me. I therefore hinge my faith only on God in this matter.
Let me start by assuring you all that I am innocent of all the allegations and trump-up charges leveled against me as same is sequel to my perceived support for an aspirant in a yet to be conceived election. I sincerely believe that justice shall not only be done but shall be seen to be done at the appropriate time.
On the issue of age as a criteria for qualification into elective offices in Nigeria across board, including the Oruk Anam Local Government Council, it is imperative to enlighten us on the provisions of extant laws and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) in this regard.
Under the new law, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (Fourth Alteration, No 27) Act 2017, the minimum age of eligibility for elective offices across board in Nigeria is now 25 years.
To this end, and by virtue of Sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Constitution shall remain supreme and any other law that is inconsistent with the provision(s) of the constitution, shall to the extent of its inconsistency remain null, void and of no effect.
Therefore, the quoted provisions of sections 36 and 43 (2) of the Akwa Ibom State Local Government Administration Law, 2017 is inconsistent with the above provisions of the Constitution, and to that extent remains a nullity.
On the issue of my alleged certificate forgery, which was geared towards tarnishing my hard- earned reputation in the eyes of responsible men, I make bold to state that I sat for and obtained the West African Senior School Certificate in 2011 and 2012 respectively; and I challenge the naysayers to investigate same as published below to their satisfaction.
The purported impeachment tagged ‘Notice of Impeachment’ apart from being written on an Akwa Ibom State Government logo letter-headed paper instead of Oruk Anam Local Government Legislative Council Letter-headed paper, also falls short of the required due process under extant laws and totally denied me fair hearing in the circumstance.
As a law-abiding citizen, I have consulted legal counsel, and therefore assure all my supporters that at the appropriate time, I shall seek legal redress to reclaim the mandate of Oruk Anam people. I therefore urge you all my supporters to remain calm, peaceful and law abiding, while allowing justice to prevail.
On this note, I pray for the will of God, who is the supreme controller of the universe to guide our conscience(s) and reward us all according to our deeds.
But, CLO said ”It goes without saying that the Oruk Anam Legislative Council clearly circumvented, and by so doing, breached the procedures laid down in the 14 sub-sections of section 44 of the Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, 2017 in their purported impeachment and removal of the Vice-Chairman of the Oruk Anam Local Government Council.
It is the considered view of the CLO that what the Oruk Anam Legislative Council did in their purported impeachment and removal of the Vice-Chairman of Oruk Anam Local Government Council is tantamount to lynching.
For, as far as section 44 of the Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, 2017 is concerned, the removal from office of a Chairman or a Vice-Chairman of a Local Government Council in Akwa Ibom State mandatorily requires a lot more than the collection and publication of the signatures of 14 Councillors of the Oruk Anam Legislative Council in the name of impeachment.
CLO frowns at and condemns the total disregard for the Rule of Law by the Oruk Anam Legislative Council in the purported impeachment and removal of the Vice-Chairman of the Oruk Anam Local Government Council.
It called on the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly to, as a matter of urgency, restore the Rule of Law by nullifying the purported impeachment and removal of the Vice-Chairman and assuming its supervisory and oversight functions on Oruk Anam Local Government pursuant to the Local Government (Administration) Law of Akwa Ibom State, 2017.