Impeachment: In spite on-going lawsuit,  Edo CJ constitutes panel to probe Shaibu


Notwithstanding the on-going lawsuit to stop his impeachment, the Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, has constituted a seven-man panel to investigate the allegations of misconduct levelled against the state Deputy Governor, Mr. Philip Shaibu, by the state House of Assembly.

Shaibu, who was a strong political ally of Governor Godwin Obaseki, fell out with the governor due to his governorship ambition.

The panel was constituted on Friday via a statement, with reference number: CR/4837 /Vol. I/131, endorsed by the Chief Registrar of the Edo State High Court, B. O. Osawaru.

According to the statement, “the panel is headed by a retired justice, S.A. Omonua.”

In the statement, the Chief Registrar stated that the CJ was acting following the powers vested on him by Section 188(5) of the 1999 Constitution.

The statement reads: “This is to bring to the notice of the general public that in line with Section 188(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the Honourable Chief Judge of Edo State, Honourable Justice DI Okungbowa, has constituted the panel of seven persons to investigate the allegations contained in the impeachment notice against the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu.

“The said panel of seven persons is composed of the following persons: Justice S.A. Omonua (rtd) – Chairman; Professor Violet Aigbokhaebo- member; Professor Boniface Onomion Edegbai -member; Professor Theresa Akpoghome – member; Oghogho Ayodele Oviasu – member; Andrew Oliha- member and Idris Abdulkareen- member.”

The Edo State House of Assembly, it would be recalled, had on Tuesday, March 19, 2024, vide a resolution passed by 19 out of the 24 members, directed the CJ to constitute a seven-man panel to investigate Shaibu.

The same day, Shaibu approached an Abuja Federal High Court, asking the court, through an ex-parte motion, to restrain the assembly; the CJ, and his principal, Governor Godwin Obaseki, from taking further action on the impeachment process, pending the determination of the substantive matter before the court.In the motion dated and filed on March 18, the deputy governor, through his lawyer, Prof Oladoyin Awoyale, also joined the Edo State Government, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Clerk of the Assembly, the Director General of the Department of State Services and the Inspector General of the Police.

But the court, presided over by Justice James Omotoso, turned down the request, insisting rather that all parties should be put on notice.

He, however, granted the request that the parties be served by substituted means and adjourned the matter to April 15, 2024.

Meanwhile, the state chapter of CRPP has urged members of the impeachment panel to decline the offer to investigate the allegation level against Shaibu.

In a statement by the Chairman of the group, Dr. Samson Isibor, and Secretary, John Isidhaome, CRPP said it was obvious that the CJ was being engineered to set up the panel.

According to CRPP, “The announcement by the Chief Judge of Edo State setting up the impeachment panel to probe Hon. Phillip Shaibu, did not come to us as a surprise based on the fact that he who pays or appoints the piper dictates the tune. It is clear the CJ is being engineered.

“But our arguments are very fundamental to the nascent democracy we are operating with the three arms of government, the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. Each arm is independent of the other, Edo State House of Assembly led by Blessing Agbebaku, rebuffed the judiciary by turning down a court summon sent by a Federal High Court delivered by a High Court bailiff.

“In fact, the court bailiff was harassed and chased away by the House of Assembly security men on the order of the House of Assembly leadership, these actions of the lawmakers, now lawbreakers are supposed to be viewed seriously as a slight on the judiciary.

“It took the intervention of the judiciary for the court bailiff to paste the summon at the entrance of the assembly.

“However, the same judiciary quickly assented to the request of the state assembly that the Chief Judge should constitute a panel to probe Phillip Shaibu.

“The Chief Judge’s actions leave much to be desired he has been quiet about the unbecoming attitude of the assembly leadership.

“We are therefore appealing to the moral instinct of the panel members to turn down their appointments individually or collectively on moral ground, justice, and fair play more so the deputy governor has served Governor Godwin Obaseki, the House of Assembly originating summons by a court of competent jurisdiction, which we believe should not be flouted.

“A case in point is that of Ondo State where the chief judges on two different occasions stood their ground and refused to do the biddings of the power that be and that of the state assembly. Peace thereafter returned to Ondo State automatically. The Chief Judge of Edo State should emulate those two Chief Judges of Ondo State.

“For the umpteenth time, we advise the outgoing governor to heed the appeal of well-meaning Nigerians to discontinue his desirous decision to impeach his deputy more so that he has few months to leave the office as a governor, power transcend is not permanent, he should remember tomorrow,” the statement added.

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