A crisis is brewing among members of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) Students’ Union Government (SUG), following the impeachment of its president, vice president and director of Transport for alleged misappropriation of funds and embezzlement. The impeached students’ leaders were on an official trip to Sweden when they were removed. The development has generated misgivings among students. Some believe due process was not followed. Others support the impeachment.
A crisis has hit the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) Students’ Union Government (SUG), following the impeachment of its President, Joshua Ezeja, Vice President Janefrances Chukwu, and Director of Transport, Kene Anumba.
The three members of the executive arm of the union were removed last weekend by members of the Student Representatives’ Council (SRC) – the union’s legislative arm – following allegations of financial misconduct and embezzlement against them.
Some members of the union have condemned the impeachment, describing it as an hasty decision” and an “abuse of constitutional procedures”. The affected officers, the antagonists of the impeachment said, were not given the opportunity to defend themselves on the allegations against them before the impeachment was carried out.
CAMPUSLIFE gathered that the embattled union leaders were on an official visit to Sweden when the impeachment was carried out.
Was the impeachment justified when the affected officers were not allowed to defend themselves? This is the puzzle students want the SRC members to explain.
The union has two legislative houses – Senate and the SRC – but the power to remove any member of the executive is vested in the latter.
The impeached union leaders, it was alleged, did not follow due process in making withdrawals from the union’s account before embarking on the European trip. CAMPUSLIFE gathered that the development was being seen as “envy” on the parts of some union members, who were not selected for the trip.
In a statement, the SRC Speaker, Kenneth Tabugbo, announced that the decision to impeach the union leaders was reached during a sitting of the legislative arm’s members.
The statement reads: “This is to bring to the notice of all that the legislative arm in its sitting held on October 30, 2017, upon deliberations on the allegations of financial misappropriation, embezzlement of union funds and gross incompetence brought against the President, Vice President, Director of Transport; the House has come to the following conclusions.
“Having had before the House, indubitable evidence of embezzlement of funds to the tune of over N4 million by the SUG President; the president stands impeached.
“On the grounds of financial misappropriation, embezzlement of union funds, denigration and complete disregard for the House, the Vice-President stands impeached.
“Having been found guilty of financial misappropriation, commercialization of union properties without the consent of the House, crass negligence and ineptitude; the Director of Transport stands impeached.
“All impeached officials are forthwith, denied all privileges of membership of the executive council and mandated to return all properties of the union to the General Secretary within seven days.”
Controversies have trailed the impeachment, with students alleging that the process did not follow constitutional procedures.
The union’s Senate President, Izuchukwu Asogwa, told CAMPUSLIFE that the SRC did not follow constitutional procedure for the impeachment.
He said: “The 2016 Constitution of the union makes provisions for the process of impeaching any official of the union. The relevant sections of that constitution are Sections 112 and 113. Section 112 requires that a notice of allegation against an officer in writing must be signed by no less than one-third of members of the House and presented to the Speaker, stating the misconduct against the officer.
“A copy of the notice must be served on the officer within seven days by the Speaker, who is required to also serve each member of the House a statement made by the officer in response to the allegation. Afterwards, the House must resolve by a motion within 14 days whether or not the allegation needs be investigated.”
Izuchukwu said the motion would only be valid if it is supported by no less than two-thirds majority of all members of the House present. Within seven days of passing the motion, the Senate President said the union’s Chief Judge needs to appoint persons of impeccable character at the request of the Speaker to investigate the allegation. He said any officer being investigated must go on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation.
He said: “Section 113 provides for a panel that will investigate the allegations and report to the House within 21 days. Where the allegation was not proven upon investigation, the matter dies a natural death. But where it is proven beyond doubt, the House must consider the report within 14 days.
“If the report is supported by no less than two-thirds majority of all members, then the investigated officer shall stand removed. The proceedings of the panel or House in this regard cannot be entertained in any court. A bye-election is, therefore, conducted within two weeks after the office becomes vacant.”
Izuchukwu said the spelt out procedures were not followed in the impeachment of the President, Vice President and the Director of Transport.
He said: “This is why the impeachment is null and void, and it is clearly unconstitutional. It is crystal clear, audible to the deaf and visible to the blind that the dictates of the constitution were not followed by the House.
“The issue of embezzlement, corruption and financial mismanagement is not something anyone jumps into. Whether he actually did it or not is a matter that must be investigated by a panel. It is not what the House members can justify without evidence.”
The Senate President dispelled opinion that there was friction among members of the union over the European trip, urging the students to disregard the rumors.
An executive member of the union, who pleaded for anonymity, said: “The president and others impeached were not served letter of impeachment neither were they given fair hearing. For God’s sake, all these happened when they were in far away Sweden.”
However, a member of the SRC, who did not give his name, said the impeachment was in order. “Though it may contradict provisions of the constitution, such decision should be seen as law of emergency that will promote accountability in the union,” he said.
At the time of the report, the impeached officials were in Sweden for official engagement. When contacted, Joshua pleaded with our reporter to allow him return to the country before making statement about what he called “purported impeachment”.
Asked if the allegation of embezzlement against him was true, Joshua simply said: “Do you believe that?” The Nation