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Obasanjo rejects resign-or-be-impeached ultimatum

A spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Wednesday that the Nigerian head of state would not heed a motion by the country's House of Representatives for him to resign within two weeks or face impeachment.

"I will continue to serve Nigeria. The president will not be diverted from his responsibility to the nation," Obasanjo was quoted as saying in a statement signed by spokesman Tunji Oseni.

The lower house passed the motion on Tuesday. It was moved by an opposition party and supported by some members of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), prompting the party's leaders to seek to restore cohesion to the foundering party. PDP Chairman Audu Ogbah presided over an emergency meeting of its highest organ, the national working committee, on Wednesday. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’Abba, who is a member of PDP and presided over the session at which the motion was passed, was invited to a meeting of top party officials on Thursday.

PDP spokesman Venatius Ikem told reporters the party was determined to impose discipline and punish errant members who supported a motion proposed by a rival party.

"We are demanding to know why they took that decision without first consulting with the leadership of the party," he told reporters. "So we have set in motion a process of inviting the Speaker and other leaders of the party in the House to explain why they had to act arbitrarily without first consulting the party."

The move by the House of Representatives has drawn mixed reactions from Nigerians.

Adams Oshimhole, president of the Nigerian Labour Congress, the country’s trade union umbrella, said that, if carried out, the legislators' threat would spell doom for Nigeria's democratic process.

But radical lawyer Gani Fawehinmi, leader of the unregistered National Conscience Party, said the president’s impeachment was long overdue. "Obasanjo has committed so many unconstitutional acts, [...] that his impeachment could have been done earlier than now," he told reporters on Wednesday. "To give him notice is just being nice to him."

For the president to be removed from office, two-thirds of the members of both legislative chambers must support impeachment.

The controversial step taken by the representatives is the latest twist in a power struggle between Obasanjo and the legislature that has marked his three-year reign. The dispute has stalled the implementation of the 2002 budget and grounded most government activities, leaving civil service salaries unpaid for months.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate had tried before, without success, to impeach the president. Most analysts think the latest effort is also unlikely to succeed, and may only serve to raise the stakes ahead of general elections due early next year.

Fears are rife that the vote will be characterised by electoral violence as occurred during the build-up to local elections, first postponed from May to August and then postponed indefinitely.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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