The Ondo State House of Assembly has vowed to continue its impeachment proceedings against Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa, despite a court order.
The lawmakers asked their lawyers to examine the order secured by Mr Aiyedatiwa, from the Federal High Court in Abuja restraining the house from proceeding with the process until the determination of the case filed by the deputy governor.
The House said its decision is guided by the provisions of Section 188(2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
The speaker, Olamide Oladiji, in a statement made available to journalists in Akure on Tuesday, said the House served Mr Aiyedatiwa the notice of allegation of gross misconduct on Monday, within seven days after the notice was presented to him (Mr Oladiji).
He said the notice was signed by 11 members of the House, which is more than one-third of the members required under Section 188(2) of the constitution.
“The impeachment notice contains Fourteen (14) specific allegations of gross misconduct with detailed particulars to which the Deputy Governor is expected to react to not later than Seven (7) days from the day he was served,” Mr Oladiji said in the statement.
“Hitherto, the House has refrained from publishing the allegations because of the need to accord the Deputy Governor the courtesy of being served with the notice, first.”
Mr Oladiji said the lawmakrs were shocked when they learnt that the deputy governor had gone to court to secure an injunction from “a certain Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to halt the process.”
“The House is shocked that rather than wait to be served with notice of the allegation of gross misconduct, and react to same as required by the constitution, the deputy governor has been running from pillar to post and filing multiple suits in both at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and the Ondo State High Courts in a bid to stop the legislative process,” the speaker said.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the House is fully conscious of Section 188 (10) of the Constitution which clearly states that ‘No proceedings or determination of the panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court.’
“In the case of Abaribe V. Abia State House of Assembly (2022) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466, the Court of Appeal emphatically stated that it was wrong for the Appellant to jump the gun by rushing to the Court to stop his impeachment process on the ground of alleged breach of fair hearing when the panel to investigate and hear him had not even been constituted. The Court of Appeal then restated that by the provision of Section 188 (10) of the Constitution, no court has the jurisdiction at that stage to interfere in the legislative proceedings for impeachment.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly restated that the Court can only intervene when the procedures for impeachment have been breached. In this case, however, the deputy governor rushed to court even before the notice of impeachment was served on him. For the records, no procedures have been breached in any way.
“In view of these, the House has directed its team of lawyers to investigate the purported injunction secured by the deputy governor and report any judicial officer who might have abused his office in granting the unconstitutional ex-parte injunction to the appropriate institution for necessary disciplinary action.
“In conclusion, the House wishes to assure the general public that it would proceed with the legislative process to a logical conclusion, but in doing so, will strictly follow the Constitutional procedures.
“The House will not abdicate or compromise its sacred constitutional duty to hold elected public officers accountable, particularly where there are prima facie serious allegations of corruption and abuse of power levelled against the Deputy Governor in this case.”
The house had earlier directed the chief judge of the state to constitute a panel of inquiry to investigate the allegations against the deputy governor.
However, the federal high court order restrained the House from proceeding further in the impeachment of the deputy governor pending the determination of a substantive suit before it.
It also restrained Governor Rotimi Akeredolu from nominating a replacement and forwarding same to the assembly for ratification.
Those joined in the suit were the Inspector General of Police, State Security Security Services, Governor of Ondo State, the Speaker of the House of Assembly and the Chief Judge of Ondo State.
The judge also gave an order restraining the respondents from harassing, intimidating or preventing the deputy governor from performing his official duties.
The case was adjourned to 9 October for consideration.
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