Saturday, 11 July 2020

Ondo State CJ Blocks House Attempt To Impeach Deputy Governor

The planned impeachment of Ondo State Deputy Governor, Hon. Agboola Ajayi, by the State House of Assembly will have to wait till another day.

Chief Judge of the State, Justice Olanrewaju Akeredolu, has declined to accede to the request of the assembly for the setting up of a seven-man investigative panel to investigate the allegations against Ajayi.

The CJ said the path taken by the anti-Ajayi assemblymen fell short of the constitutional requirements.

Akeredolu (no relation of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu), responding to a letter from the Speaker, Bamidele Oleyelogun on the matter, said the Deputy Governor must be served with notice of impeachment signed by no fewer than one-third of members of the House of Assembly of the state.”

In the June 9, 2020 letter, the CJ said: “The notice to be served on him must state that he is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office and must specify the particulars of the gross misconduct.

“He must be allowed to respond to the allegations

“Within 14 days of receipt of the Notice of the Honourable Speaker, whether or not the Deputy Governor responded, the House of Assembly shall pass a resolution supported by not less than two thirds majority of all the members of the House of Assembly that the allegations be investigated.

“Within seven days of passing the resolution, at the request of the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Chief Judge shall appoint a panel of seven persons to investigate.”

She also said the lawmakers had not completed the constitutional process that would lead the Speaker to invite her to set up an investigative panel as stipulated by the Constitution.

Besides, she said she had received a letter from Kayode Olatoke, SAN, that the matter of the impeachment of Ajayi was sub judice.

Why CJ rejected Assembly’s impeachment panel request

Besides the reasons given by Justice Akeredolu on why she could not set up a panel to investigate the Ondo State Deputy Governor, multiple sources told The Nation that the CJ appears to have been unconvinced that 14 members of the  State Assembly met the constitutional requirement that two thirds of the 26 legislators ought to have signed the impeachment notice.

She is also of the view that the position of the nine members of the Assembly who are against the impeachment procedure could not be ignored.

“In spite of effort in their correspondence to convince the CJ that the deputy governor had been put on notice of the impeachment process, the pro impeachment legislators could not provide evidence to back up their claims. It is largely for this that the CJ declined their request,” a source privy to the development said.

The source added: “Justice Akeredolu merely chose to err on the side of caution instead of being caught in an obvious political web.”

It was also gathered that following the request for a panel of enquiry from the Assembly to the CJ, Justice Akeredolu had  received advice and warnings from leading political figures across the state, including some chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), on her handling of the matter.

The APC chieftains reportedly wrote to the CJ to say that recent happenings in the state Assembly were largely political and, as such, she should be cautious lest she be dragged into a mess by the assembly’s divided leadership.

One source said: “A group of prominent APC leaders, including current and former political office holders, had reached out to the CJ to advise her on the request by the Assembly.

“They warned her against allowing herself to be used in the political schemes of some people.

“They advised her to examine the division in the assembly critically in deciding whether to set up the panel or not.”

Sources also said that a group of PDP leaders in Akure Local Government Area of the state on Thursday threatened to report the CJ to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and also take her to court should she accede to the request of the House.

The group -PDP Rebirth Forum- under the leadership of Hon. Biodun Falaye, former state Secretary of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP), accused the APC in the state of persecuting Ajayi on account of his party affiliation.

“And this obviously is an infringement on his right to associate freely. The CJ should know that it is not expected that the judiciary, being independent of the executive and the legislature, will provide a free platform for the deputy governor to be further persecuted, especially when the matter is already in court,” the group said.

“Justice Akeredolu will have to make a choice, whether to be applauded for standing up for justice or be dragged to court for standing justice on its head knowingly. We are not unaware of the pressure on her by those who want to subvert the process, but the choice is for the Judge to make.”

Another source said: “The deputy governor and his new party had moved ahead of the assembly.

”With the cases in court, the impeachment process will have to wait.

“But the pro-impeachment lawmakers were banking on the support of Governor Akeredolu to get the CJ to play ball.

“The pressure from politicians across party divides sent some warning signals to the judiciary in the state, leading to a resolution to stay out of the ongoing political power struggle within the executive.”

Ajayi recently resigned from the APC to join the PDP following a disagreement with Governor Akeredolu.

Article 186 of the 1999 Constitution stipulates the conditions for the removal of a deputy governor.

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