New Telegraph

Ripples Over Seven-man Panel To Investigate Ondo Deputy Governor

The fate of the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa, is in the hands of the Chief Judge, Justice Olusegun Odusola, who the lawmakers expect to constitute a seven-man panel to investigate the offences against the Deputy Governor. Babatope Okeowo reports the diatribe between the lawmakers and the Deputy Governor on the proprietary or otherwise of the panel.

The move by the members of Ondo State House of Assembly to impeach Hon Lucky Aiyedatiwa as the Deputy Governor has suffered setback due to the refusal of the Chief Justice of the State, Justice Olusegun Odusola to constitute a seven-man panel to probe the allegation of gross misconduct leveled against the Deputy Governor. The Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Olamide Oladiji, has directed Justice Odusola to set up a seven-man panel to investigate the 14-count charge leveled against the Deputy Governor.

But the Chief Judge turned down the request because of a pending order of a Federal High Court in Abuja which barred the Chief Judge and other defendants in the suit from proceeding with the impeachment move. Aiyedatiwa, had through his lawyers led by Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa rushed to the Federal High Court to stop the Police, the Chief Judge, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Clerk of the House of Assembly and the Speaker to take any step on the impeachment move against him as the Deputy Governor.

The Court presided by Justice Emeka Nwete in an ex-parte order stopped any impeachment move against the Deputy Governor. The lawmakers who said initially that court has no role to play on the impeachment of Governor or Deputy eventually joined issue with the Deputy Governor on the move. They also wrote to the Chief Judge to constitute the panel to probe the allegations against Aiyedatiwa.

CJ’s Intervention

Justice Odusola in his reply to the Assembly said his hands were tied in constituting the seven-man panel to investigate the Deputy Governor because of the order against the move. This development has led to the stalemate in the impeachment saga as both the lawmakers and the Chief Justice could not progress until the order of the Federal High Court was either discharged or renewed.

The Chief Judge had intimated the Speaker of the State Assembly that he would not be able to carry out the directive until the order of an Abuja Federal High Court, which stopped the impeachment process against Aiyedatiwa, was vacated. A lawmaker in the State Assembly said that Odusola advised the Speaker to muster concerted efforts to vacate the order of the Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Emeka Nwite, as an irreducible precondition for him to obey the Assembly’s directive.

The lawmaker said: “The CJ has reached out to Mr. Speaker that he cannot set up a seven-man panel to probe the Deputy Governor as directed by the House, claiming that his hands are tied by the interim order issued by Justice Emeka Nwite, stopping the impeachment process.”

The Diatribe

In a fresh letter to the Chief Justice, the Speaker said that sequel to the expiration of the ex-parte order earlier granted, there was the need to set up the panel to investigate the allegation leveled against the Deputy. But the embattled Deputy Governor through his lawyer, Adegboruwa said the order subsists until it was either renewed or vacated.

Assembly’s Position

The Assembly in its fresh letter re- quested the Chief Justice to constitute a Seven-man Panel which to investigate the allegations against the Deputy-Governor in line with Section 188 (5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 because the order has been overtaken by events.

The Speaker said: “From the facts and legal advice at the disposal of the House, the said order has now elapsed and/or become extinguished by the operation of the law, in view of the clear provisions of Order 26 Rule 10 (2) and (3) of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, which states that an application to vary or discharge an order ex-parte may be made by the party or any person affected within 14 days after service and shall not last more than fourteen days after the application has been argued unless the Court otherwise directs and where a motion to vary or discharge an ex parte order is not taken within 14 days of its being filed, the ex-parte order shall lapse unless the court otherwise directs in the interest of justice.”

The letter read: “Your lordship would recall that the ex-parte order was made on September 26, 2023 after which the case was adjourned to October 9, 2023. The third Defendant in the case filed a motion on October 4, 2023 to discharge the order and/or strike out the case for want of jurisdiction.

Fourteen days from October 4, 2023 when the motion was filed, terminated on or about October 18, 2023. The Court has not taken the application or renewed the order, as evident in the Certified True Copy of the Court’s record of proceedings for October 9, 2023 and October 16, 2023. It was recorded that the motion was served on the Plaintiff in Court on October 9, 2023, after which the matter was adjourned to October 16, 2023.

In view of the above facts, your lordship would agree that the said order has elapsed by the operation of the law, and no longer constitutes an encumbrance for your lordship to discharge the sacred constitutional obligation placed on your office by virtue of Section 188 (5) of the Constitution to set up the Seven-man Panel.”

Aiyedaiwa replies Assembly

The Deputy Governor in his reply asked the Chief Judge to ignore the request of the Assembly to constitute a seven-man panel of investigators to probe allegations of gross misconduct against him. In a letter submitted earlier in the week through Adegboruwa, the Deputy Governor said the orders granted by the Federal High Court, Abuja were still in force and remained valid and subsisting, contrary to the conclusion of the Assembly that the said orders had expired by operation of law.

Dwelling on order 26 Rule 10 (2) and (3) of the Federal High Court Rules 2019, the Deputy Governor argued that the Court in Abuja has been given wide discretion to determine the nature, status and duration of any order granted and “in this case, the Court directed that the orders granted on 26th September 2023 should last till the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction, which is still pending before the Court.

The Deputy Governor stated in his letter that based on the two proceedings of the Federal High Court, Abuja of October 9 and 16, 2023, the Court has not set aside the pending orders and the order cannot be extinguished by the application to set it aside since it was combined with the hearing of the substantive suit.

Aiyedatiwa drew the attention of the Chief Judge to the inconsistent action of the Assembly which on one hand is claiming that the orders have expired whilst, on the other hand, it is pursuing an appeal against the said Orders. The Deputy Governor referred the Chief Judge to the Motion on Notice filed by the Assembly at the Court of Appeal, Abuja on October 20, 2023 where it stated that the orders granted by the Federal High Court were still valid and subsisting because they were tied to the hearing and determination of the Deputy Governor’s motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

He queried whether the Assembly can approbate and reprobate at the same time by stating under oath in court that the orders are still valid and pending while at the same time writing a letter to the Chief Judge claiming that the orders have expired. His words: “Contrary to this misconception of law and the facts, the same House of Assembly filed a Motion on Notice dated 20th October 2023, before the Court of Appeal, Abuja in respect of the same orders of the Federal High Court, praying for abridgement of time to hear its appeal against the said orders.

If it is true that the orders expired by operation of law on 18th October 2023 as being falsely canvassed, why would the same House of Assembly file a fresh application two days later, in pursuit of its desire to set aside the said orders that it claimed have expired? While the Assembly is pursuing its appeal to set aside the orders in Court, it is deviously asking My Lord to set aside the same orders in Chambers, purportedly by operation of law.

In Ground 4 of the said Motion on Notice dated 20th October 2023 filed the House of Assembly and pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja and paragraph 9 of the affidavit of Elizabeth Omiwole in support thereof, it is stated on oath as follows: The lower Court has not heard the Originating Summons till date and has in fact adjourned the case till 30th October 2023 whilst the interim injunctions are tied to the hearing and determination of the first respondent’s interlocutory applications which has not been taken till date.”

The Deputy Governor reminded the Chief Judge of his principled position as stated in his letter to the Assembly on October 3, 2023 that all parties should await the hearing of the cases in court, stating that nothing has changed to warrant a departure from the stand of the Chief Judge. He referred to other cases pending before the Akure High Court on the same subject matter of impeachment, urging the Chief Judge as the head of the judiciary not to allow the Assembly to ridicule the Courts and their authority.

He also quoted from the Supreme Court decision in the case of the Deputy Governor of Taraba State (Danladi v. Dangari) where in a similar fashion, lawmakers rushed to impeach him whilst his case was pending in Court, where- upon the Supreme Court quashed the impeachment and ordered his reinstatement. For now, the both the lawmakers and the Deputy Governor are sharply divided on whether the Chief Judge should set up the panel to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct against Aiyedatiwa. Both gladiators are waiting on Justice Odusola to wield the big stick and that would determine the fate of the impeachment against the number two citizen of the Sunshine State.

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