Impeachment: In spite lawsuit, Edo panel rounds off sitting


Notwithstanding the pendency of a lawsuit on the matter, the Edo State Chief Judge, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, is awaiting the final report of a seven-member panel constituted by him to probe allegation of misconduct levelled against the state Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu.

The awaited report is required for the state’s lawmakers to proceed with Shaibu’s removal or perish the thought.

Deaconess Esther Obafunke Adunni ADEKANLE

The inaugural sitting of the panel occurred on Wednesday but Shaibu and his counsel came but excused themselves from participating in the sitting.

The lead counsel to Shaibu, Prof. Oladoyin Awoyale, last Wednesday, had declared that participating in the proceedings of the panel would amount to “fait accompli,” adding that continued sitting of members amounted to contempt of the court.

He said that all parties in the Federal High Court, Abuja suit ought to obey the interlocutory order, which asked them to show cause why the injunction to maintain status quo ante bellum, pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion on notice, should not be granted.

The order also directed the parties to appear before the presiding judge on April 8, 2024, to show cause why the relief sought by Shaibu should not be granted, particularly the enforcement of fundamental human rights prayer, tabled before the court by the embattled deputy governor.

The FHC Abuja suit before Justice Ekwo has as defendants the Inspector-General of Police (IGP); the Department of Security Services (DSS); Omonua, representing himself and the members of the panel; Edo Chief Judge and the state’s House of Assembly.

Awoyale declared that the panel’s members continuing to sit would amount to undermining the rule of law, and then took the leave of the panel to excuse himself and his client from continuing with the panel’s proceedings.

Notwithstanding, the counsel to Edo State House of Assembly, Joe Ohiafi, on Wednesday opened and closed his case, while he insisted that Section 188 (10) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) foreclosed any court from preventing the lawmakers and members of the panel from discharging their constitutional responsibilities.

Ohiafi noted that only members of the House of Assembly could determine what could constitute gross misconduct, adding that by the deputy governor attaching documents relating to the state’s Executive Council’s meetings to the case he filed last year at the FHC, Abuja, which he later withdrew owing to intervention of eminent Nigerians, he had breached/violated his oath of office, and committed gross misconduct.

Omonua, in the panel’s decision, stated that Shaibu’s suit at FHC, Abuja was neither here nor there, while maintaining that the section of Nigeria’s constitution empowered and protected the panel from external interference, and insisted that members of the panel would continue to sit.

At Thursday’s sitting, the Principal Legal Officer of Edo House of Assembly, N.U. Ibrahim, who initiated the impeachment proceedings, announced his appearance with two other lawyers.

Shaibu and Awoyale’s refusal to appear before members of the panel Thursday was hinged on its disobedience of the March 28, 2024 interlocutory order of the Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo.

Members of the panel then fixed Friday (yesterday) for final adjournment to enable Edo deputy governor or his counsel to defend himself.

At the Friday’s sitting, Edo House of Assembly was still represented by Ibrahim and two others: Favour Atakpu and William Omogbai but Shuaibu and his counsel were again conspicuously absent.

Rounding off the sitting at Edo State High Court Complex, Benin, Omonua said: “The panel adjourned sitting till today (Friday) for the last time for the respondent (Shaibu/counsel) to present his defence, and the respondent is still not before the panel.

“The panel is therefore closing its sitting to retire to consider its report as provided by the constitution.”

The other members of the panel include Prof. Theresa Akpoghome, Oghogho Ayodele Oviasu, Dr. Andrew Oliha, Idris Abdulkareen, President Aighokhian and Mariam Erakhoba Ilavbare.

It will be recalled that Edo State Chief Judge, on March 25, reconstituted the seven-member panel, which he initially put together on March 22 before two professors, Violet Aigbokhaebo and Boniface Onomion Edegbai, declined to serve on the panel to investigate the allegations as contained in the March 6, 2024 impeachment notice by the members of Edo House of Assembly.

Okungbowa reconstituted another panel in line with Section 188 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

Edo lawmakers, on March 19, through a resolution by 19 of the 24 members, directed the chief judge to constitute the seven-member panel.

Obaseki, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is backing a Lagos-based lawyer, Dr. Asue Ighodalo, to succeed him on November 12 this year, while Shaibu insisted that he remained the standard bearer of PDP in Edo for the September 21 governorship election, and declared that he would win the election on account of his popularity and acceptability as a “home boy”.

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