The Minister of Mines and Steel Development and former governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, has warned the Ekiti State Judicial Commission of Inquiry investigating his tenure as governor that its proceedings were in contempt of court.
He also cautioned the commission that it risks committal to prison for disregarding the court processes filed against it.
Mr. Fayemi who wrote through his lawyer, Akin Olujinmi, SAN, brought to the attention of the commission a suit before an Ekiti High Court challenging its constitution and propriety of investigating him.
The commission, headed by a retired justice, Silas Oyewole, was set up by the state government in May following a resolution of the State House of Assembly that the allegations of fraud against Mr. Fayemi be investigated.
The House had been in the forefront of raising sundry allegations against Mr. Fayemi, particularly the alleged diversion of N852million from the state’s Universal Basic Education Board.
Mr. Fayemi had slammed a N500million libel suit on the House of Assembly for defaming him and another N3billion suit against some aides of state governor, Ayo Fayose, for the same reason.
The establishment of the commission of inquiry was seen by many as a response to Mr. Fayemi’s libel suits, but he went back to the court to restrain the commission from sitting or investigating him.
In a letter dated August 24, which was made available to journalists on Thursday in Ado-Ekiti, Mr. Fayemi said he had challenged the constitutionality of the commission before a high court and so would not be appearing in person before it.
Titled “Contempt of Court: Sitting of Judicial Commission of Inquiry”, the letter stated that the decision of the panel to go ahead with the sitting and to summon Mr. Fayemi to appear before it, in spite of the pendency of the suit no HAD/57/2017 at the Ado-Ekiti High Court, amounted to contempt of court, which is “redressible by an order of committal to prison.”
“In the light of the pending case including our client’s motion for interlocutory injunction, Your Lordship is under clear duty to stay action on the activities of your commission until the pending case is determined,” the letter which was signed by Mr. Olujinmi, stated.
“To do otherwise is to commit contempt of court which is redressible by an order of committal to prison.
“We hope in the light of the forgoing, it will not be rendered necessary for our client to test the efficacy of the law against your commission, which definitely will be an embarrassment to your commission. We are sending a copy of this letter to the court before which the case is pending in Ado-Ekiti.”
The letter further noted that it was baffling that the panel’s chairman, Justice Oyewole (rtd), who had filed processes, through his counsel, in the pending suit which the minister instituted to challenge the constitutionality and legality of the commission, still went ahead to summon Mr. Fayemi to appear before the panel.
“It is worrisome therefore that notwithstanding Your Lordship’s knowledge of the pendency of the suit and having engaged counsel who has filed processes on your behalf, your commission still proceeded in defiance of the suit to issue a witness summon on our client to appear and give evidence before your commission,” the letter further read.
“We have no doubt Your Lordship is very much aware of the settled principle of law laid down by the Supreme Court in Governor of Lagos State v Ojukwu (1986).
“Definitely, whilst a serving judge, Your Lordship would have invoked this principle in the resolution of some cases, It is therefore expected that Your Lordship should not be a party to or consciously engage in or encourage an action that will amount to an affront to the authority and integrity of the court or stymie the efforts and capacity of the court to do justice in the pending case.”
At the sitting on Wednesday, counsel representing Mr. Fayemi, Rafiu Balogun, had applied orally that his client be excused from appearing citing the suit before the high court against the commission’s proceedings.
The panel had rejected Mr. Balogun’s oral application, saying he should apply formally stating reasons why his client would not appear before the commission.