The Ondo State House of Assembly repudiated claims on Saturday that it had halted the impeachment trial of the state’s Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa.
The Assembly, while rebutting these claims, expressed its determination to continue with the impeachment to investigate the severe allegations of gross misbehavior allegedly committed by the deputy governor.
The Assembly’s legal representative, Femi Emodamori, clarified this stance in a statement publicized on Saturday.
The declaration states, “The Ondo State House of Assembly, our client, has shared with us an erroneous news report indicating that the impeachment proceedings against the state’s Deputy Governor have been put on hold.”
“The Assembly reasserts that it has not put a stop to the impeachment process as widely misreported, and will see it through to verifiably confirm the validity of serious allegations against the Deputy Governor for gross misbehavior .
“Impeachment can be defined as a constitutional mechanism explicitly delineated in Sections 188 (1)-(11) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and our client has meticulously adhered to all stages leading to it. The Chief Judicial Magistrate of the state is requested to establish a seven-member panel to probe the accusations according to Article 188(5) of the Constitution.”
“The notice of gross misconduct allegations was authenticated by 11 members of the House of Representatives and presented to the Speaker on September 20, 2023, conforming strictly to Section 188(2) of the Constitution, which mandates at least one-third of the 26 members to sign the notice and submit it to the Speaker. That is the initial stage of the impeachment process.”
“Accordingly, the Speaker delivered the notice to the Deputy Governor on September 25, 2023, ensuring it was also served to all other Assembly members, in utter compliance with the same Article 188 (2) of the Constitution, necessitating this action within a week. The second stage has thus been completed.”
“The next stage, outlined in Article 188(3) of the Constitution, necessitates a two-thirds majority to pass a motion within 14 days from the time the allegation(s) of gross misconduct is presented by the chair, to investigate the allegation(s) and require the state’s Chief Judge to establish a seven-member panel for the same purpose.”
“Our client has fully complied with the said Article 188(3) of the Constitution. In fact, 23 members out of the 26 (exceeding the minimum two-thirds majority required) carried the motion on October 3, 2023. As per Section 188(5) of the Constitution, following the passage of the motion by a two-thirds majority, it’s the Speaker’s duty to formally ask the State’s Chief Judge to form the seven-member panel.”
“On the very day that the motion was carried, i.e., October 3, the Speaker dutifully executed this.”
“At this juncture, the Honorable Chief Judge of Ondo State responded to the Assembly, disclosing that he had received an ex parte order from the Federal High Court, Abuja, on September 26, 2023, obtained by the Deputy Governor, inhibiting his role in constituting the panel until all parties have presented their case.”
“To clarify, Article 188(10) of the Constitution categorically states that no court of law can challenge the House’s proceedings, decisions, or any matter relating to them, and many cases from Nigeria’s top courts have upheld that verdicts of impeachment cannot be meddled with by any court, as long as the House strictly follows the entire constitutional process.”
“The respected Chief Justice himself noted in his comprehensive response to my client, the House, that he was well aware of Section 188(10) of the Constitution and even quoted it word-for-word. However, the Chief Justice said that as the chief adjudicator, he would prefer the ex parte order, which in his view “held his hand,” first be rescinded or overturned. It is clear that the Chief Justice would rather err on the side of being cautious.”
“Our client’s standpoint is, contrary to the misrepresented media reports, that despite their concerns regarding the Chief Justice’s view, considering the clear articulation of Article 188(10) of the Constitution and judgements from appeal courts asserting that no court can query an impeachment, they would currently demonstrate understanding for the delicate position the Chief Justice finds himself in. This will be done by pursuing the necessary legal steps to rescind or dismiss the order and/or the entire lawsuit at the Federal Supreme Court, freeing his hands to steer the impeachment procedure judiciously.”
“Bear in mind, a similar lawsuit filed by the same Deputy Governor on the same matter was dismissed for abuse of process at the Ondo State High Court on October 10, 2023, following a preliminary objection presented on behalf of our client.”