A Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja has declared the purported removal of Simon Achuba as the deputy governor by the state House of Assembly as illegal, null, void and of no effect.
The Court also declared that the subsequent nomination of Edward Onoja and his inauguration as the deputy governor as replacement for Mr Achuba, did not follow due process.
Justice John Olorunfemi of Kogi High Court IV made the declaration on Thursday in Lokoja in his judgement on the suit brought by Mr Achuba challenging his purported removal by the state House of Assembly on October 18, 2019.
Mr Achuba had approached the court to challenge his removal by the Assembly and subsequent replacement by Mr Onoja, the former Chief of Staff to Governor Yahaya Bello.
Joined in the suit as defendants are the House of Assembly, the 25 members of the Assembly, the state governor, Chief Judge of the state and Mr Onoja.
Mr Olorunfemi held that the process leading to the purported impeachment and subsequent nomination of another person to the office by the lawmakers was a violation of the constitution.
He described the action of the Assembly as “a constitutional coup, hatched and executed in a democracy” and said it ran contrary to Section 188(8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (As amended).
The Section, according to him, provided for stoppage of further action by the Assembly having discovered that Mr Achuba was not found wanting by the report of Investigative Panel of Inquiry set up by the State Chief Judge.
He held that the onus to produce the remaining volumes of the report, purported to have indicted the former deputy governor, rested with the defendants adding that they failed to prove.
He said that the 29 defendants also did not file a counter notice, describing the process of removing the former deputy governor as not following due process.
Mr Olorunfemi wondered why the legislators whose responsibility it was to make laws for the state turned out to be “law breakers.”
He said they chose to proceed with the purported impeachment even when the seven-member committee set up to investigate allegations of gross misconduct against the deputy governor declared him not guilty.
The Judge therefore granted all the prayers of the defendant to the effect that the impeachment as carried out by the Assembly and subsequent inauguration of Mr Onoja on October 18, 2019 remained null, void and therefore, of no consequence.
He said the chief judge of the state, Nasir Ajanah, should not have gone ahead with the swearing in of Mr Onoja as no further action should have taken place after the “no guilty verdict.”