The Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Kayode Fayemi, who is a former governor of Ekiti State, has asked a state High Court to restrain the judicial commission of inquiry set up by his successor, Governor Ayodele Fayose, from investigating him over allegations of fraud and diversion of public funds.
The commission was recently set up by the governor at the instance of the Ekiti State House of Assembly.
It was charged with probing the administration of Mr. Fayemi, including the financial transactions and loans obtained by the administration, as well as the administration of funds of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board.
The assembly said it reached the conclusion to direct the governor to probe his predecessor, following Mr. Fayemi’s refusal to appear before the House to explain what he knew about alleged diversion of funds.
The house said it relied on Section 129 of the 1999 Constitution, when on March 22, 2016 and February 7 it ordered Mr. Fayemi to appear before it and clear his name over the allegations.
While inaugurating the commission, Mr. Fayose denied the allegation of witch-hunt, saying that it was set in line with the provisions of the law.
Mr. Fayemi had earlier sought the protection of the court when the Ekiti State House of Assembly summoned him to answer questions on the use of SUBEB funds.
However, a statement made available to journalists on Thursday by Mr. Fayemi’s media adviser, Olayinka Oyebode, said the minister filed a motion before the court to challenged the competence of the commission.
The minister, in the suit number HAD/57/2017, filed by his counsel, Rafiu Balogun, is asking the court to restrain the state governor, the state’s attorney-general and members of the judicial commission of inquiry from taking any step, following the pendency of two cases on the planned probe in courts of competent jurisdiction.
Also joined in the suit are the Ekiti State House of Assembly and Speaker of the House of Assembly.
Mr. Fayemi is also seeking a declaration that the motion and subsequent resolution of the State House of Assembly directing the governor (first defendant) to set up the commission to investigate or probe his administration were “unlawful, illegal and ought to be declared null and void.”
This, he said, was in view of the fact the resolution was passed during the “pendency” of a case involving him and the State House of Assembly and its speaker, which touched on the legality of the summons and powers of the Assembly to conduct any investigation or direct any other person or body to do so without strict compliance with the tenets of the 1999 Constitution.
Mr. Fayemi also submitted that the State House of Assembly acted “in flagrant contravention of the principle of separation of powers and had committed a fundamental breach of the Standing Order of the House of Assembly and doctrine of subjudice by revisiting the issue of investigation of his administration and passing a resolution for the setting up of a judicial commission of enquiries with terms and reference that would prejudice the outcome of the case between him and the House of Assembly and its speaker.”
He is also seeking a declaration that the House of Assembly cannot exercise its power under Section 128 of the 1999 Constitution, to direct Ekiti State Governor to set up a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate his administration while the House had earlier conducted its investigation and submitted its report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) urging the anti- graft body to further conduct discreet investigation and prosecute him and some officials of his administration.
His prayers further read: “That the setting up of the panel after the conclusion of its investigation by the House of Assembly to allegations of financial malpractices and the submission of same to the EFCC would amount to oppression, double jeopardy and a clear abuse of legislative power.
“A declaration that the House of Assembly cannot exercise its constitutional right to direct or cause the Governor of Ekiti State to constitute a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate the plaintiff when the conditions precedent for the exercise of such powers, as enshrined in the constitution, have not been fulfilled by the Assembly.”
Mr. Fayemi also faulted the constitution of the judicial commission saying that the chairman, secretary and other members of the commission could not be apolitical, neutral or unbiased because of their affinity with the governor of Ekiti state, “which therefore put the independence and impartiality of the panel into serious distrust.”
He also wants the court to nullify the resolution of the State House of Assembly of May 10 directing the governor to constitute the panel of inquiry.
He urged the court to grant an order dissolving the commission and an award of N500 million as general damages to be paid by the first, third and fourth respondents (i.e.the Governor, Ekiti State House of Assembly and the Speaker of the Assembly) for the embarrassment , odium and public ridicule the purported resolution of the House had caused him.
Aside this, Fayemi is also seeking from the court, a perpetual injunction restraining the House of Assembly from passing similar resolution and the Governor from constituting another judicial commission of inquiry or administrative panel as the issues relating to the finances of his administration had been submitted to the EFCC and pending before two courts of competent jurisdiction for adjudication.
The former governor, in the supporting affidavit he personally deposed to, said he knew that the resolution of the House summoning him to appear before it and subsequent resolution of the House to issue a bench warrant of arrest against him were done in bad faith.
“It was a calculated attempt to embarrass me and undermine the effect of my libel suit pending before the Federal Capital territory High Court in Abuja,” he said.
“There is no way justice can be done with the crop of personalities in the Commission of Enquiry and the right to fair hearing cannot be guaranteed in the way and manner the commission was constituted.
“I have a reason to believe that the Chairman of the Commission, a retired judge has an axe to grind with me on account of not acceding to his ambition to be appointed as Chief Judge of Ekiti State during my tenure as governor. This is in addition to his clear partisanship and overt support for the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP).
“I know that the secretary to the commission is the incumbent Director of Public Prosecution, Ekiti State. He was appointed and elevated to that position by Governor Fayose. The Counsel to the Commission, Mr S.B.J Bamise is also a state counsel, who no doubt, cannot be fair nor be trusted to be unbiased. He is under the control of Attorney-General, Ekiti State.
“I strongly believe that the sanctity of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man ought to be guarded jealously and this will be achieved only if the purported commission of enquiry, constituted when there are pending cases related to the matters, is dissolved by the order of this honourable court in the interest of rule of law and strict adherence to the age long principle of separation of powers.”
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