Lawyers in Ondo State have weighed in on the process going on in the state House of Assembly for the impeachment of the state’s deputy governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
The House of Assembly, led by Olamide Oladiji, served Mr Aiyedatiwa with a notice of 14 allegations and has directed the chief judge to set up a seven-member panel of inquiry to investigate the allegations.
This was despite Mr Aiyedatiwa obtaining a court order restraining the House on the matter, pending the determination of his case, for which hearing the court has fixed 9 October.
Is the House right in insisting on proceeding with the process despite the court order? What do residents of the state think about the effort to kick Mr Aiyedatiwa out of office? PREMIUM TIMES spoke with some lawyers in the state.
Two constitutional lawyers, Jiti Ogunye, and Femi Emodamori, faulted the steps that Mr Aiyedatiwa have taken towards stopping the impeachment process.
The two lawyers chided the deputy governor for running to the courts when he was yet to be served the impeachment notice.
They argued that Mr Aiyedatiwa abused the court process when he sought to stop the procedure even before the commencement of the process.
Speaking on a programme on Television Continental (TVC), Mr Ogunye described the deputy governor’s action as a clear violation of the constitution.
He said Mr Aiyedatiwa approaching the Federal High Court instead of the state high court, and suing the governor, House of Assembly and the chief judge, were wrong.
Mr Ogunye said the deputy governor should submit himself and answer the allegations levelled against him.
“The issue of principle here is that there is a route under Section 188 of the Constitution. That route says that in seven days you should receive a notice served by the Speaker on the holder of the office, be it governor or deputy governor. Within 14 days, a vote is taken, if two-thirds pass the matter, it goes to the chief judge of the state within seven days and then a panel is set up within three months and the report comes in,” Mr Ogunye said.
“After the report comes in, if the report says no misconduct has been committed, the matter ends there. If it says misconduct is proven, then the person is impeached. That’s the process. And so, if at the tail-end the process is not followed, the holder of the office has a recourse to have him restored to power.
“The second one is the federalist principle which is very dear to me. You are a deputy governor of a state, you have a state high court, you are suing everybody in that state, including the chief judge of that state, and you are taking them to a federal government court? That offends my federalist principle,” he said.
Mr Emodamori on his part, argued that if the state assembly follows section 188, sub-section 1-9, no court as stipulated in section 10, has the power to intervene.
”It is only when there are pure breaches of the law that the court may intervene. Now, His Excellency hasn’t even been served, the notice. It was initiated by 11 members of the House, more than one-third required, he didn’t wait to be served.
“The law says it should be served within seven days. He rushed to court the following day that he had not been served, saying it was a violation of his rights. Then I have just seen another suit filed by my respected colleague, Ebun-olú Adegboruwa, and I have read the processes.
“He’s alleging violation of his own right to fair hearing that he’s not been served. That it’s within social media even when section 188 says he should be served within seven days and it’s not yet seven days.
“Rushing to court even before the panel is constituted is an abuse of judicial process. He doesn’t have a fundamental human right to protect at that stage. The body to hear him is the panel to be constituted by the chief judge. Until the body begins work, how do you complain of violation to fair hearing?”
However, an Akure-based lawyer, Donald Ayibiowu, described the entire impeachment project as “pointless.”
In an open letter to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Mr Ayibiowu advised the governor to provide leadership and stop his family and friends who he said are orchestrating the current drama.
“Now that you are back and still recuperating in your Ibadan home, but in the light of your communication to the Ondo State House of Assembly that you have resumed work, one expects that you take charge fully of affairs of our dear Ondo State, notwithstanding, the shenanigans of family, friends and close political associates,” he said.
“The shocking news of the ongoing pointless impeachment of your deputy, Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, is the least the people expect from our dear State.
“I dare say that your deputy should not be made the ‘scapegoat’ for what the whole world can see glaringly as ‘Fuji House of Commotion’ in your absence.
“To participate, consent or authorise his removal would mean that you have taken sides. Your Excellency, your approach should be to declare that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God’, because I believe you don’t even know who is right, wrong, true, good or bad.”
Mr Ayibiowu said if the deputy governor had wanted to go against the governor as acting governor, he would have sacked some members of his cabinet and greatly altered the configuration of his government before his return.
“Therefore, should it be politically expedient for your team to proceed with their action, counsel them to follow the law. So far, the public has not seen any cogent misconduct or clear-cut financial misappropriation or embezzlement attributable to the Deputy Governor to warrant this harassment,” he said.
Mr Ayibiowu said the House had not been able to convince the public of any serious breach by the deputy governor, noting that its spokesperson, Olatunji Oshati, failed to do so when interviewed on Channels TV recently.
He urged Mr Akeredolu to call his “actors in this fruitless impeachment exercise to order,” and focus on finishing his tenure strong by fulfilling all his campaign promises to the people of the state.
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