Justice Emeka Nwite of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has restrained the Ondo State House of Assembly from impeaching the Deputy Governor, Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa, over alleged acts of gross misconduct.
But the Ondo State House of Assembly has said the Federal High Court injunction secured by Aiyedatiwa, would not in any way affect its action.
Justice Nwite issued the restraining order on Tuesday while ruling in an ex-parte application brought by Aiyedatiwa.
Aside from the state lawmakers, the judge also restrained Governor Rotimi Akeredolu from nominating a new deputy governor and forwarding the same to the lawmakers for approval pending the hearing and determination of the substantive matter.
The deputy governor had in a motion on notice marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2023, sued the state assembly as well as the governor over moves to remove him from office as deputy governor.
Respondents in the suit were the governor; speaker; members of the House of Assembly; Chief Judge of Ondo State; the Inspector-General (I-G) of Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).
However, pending the hearing of the substantive suit, Aiyedatiwa through his lawyer, Mr Kayode Adewusi, filed and argued the ex-parte motion to forestall his removal from office.
After listening to Adewusi, the court held that the application has merit, adding that it would be in the interest of justice to grant the application.
“Therefore, the application of the applicant succeeds,” the court held.
Beside halting the impeachment of the deputy governor, the court made another order of interim injunction restraining Akeredolu, his servants or privies from harassing, intimidating, embarrassing, and preventing Aiyedatiwa in carrying out the functions of his office as Deputy Governor of Ondo State.
Justice Nwite, who granted all the reliefs adjourned the matter until October 9 for hearing in the main suit.
Meanwhile, Ayedatiwa had, also in another suit marked: AK/348/2023 prayed the High Court in Akure to stop the state’s house of assembly from proceeding with the impeachment proceedings against him pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed in the court on Monday.
Meanwhile, in a statement by the Speaker of the Ondo Assembly, Olamidei Oladiji, he said the notice of allegation of gross misconduct against the Deputy Governor within seven days was presented to him and was signed by 11 out of the 26 members of the House, more than one-third of the members of the House required to sign the impeachment notice under Section 188(2) of the Constitution.
The statement read: “The impeachment notice contains 14 specific allegations of gross misconduct with detailed particulars to which the Deputy Governor is expected to react to not later than seven days from the day he was served.
“Hitherto, the House has refrained from publishing the allegations because of the need to accord the deputy governor the courtesy of being served with the notice, first.
“Having served the notice, and in view of the massive public interest in the subject matter, the House of Assembly has formally directed that its acknowledgement copy be released to the public.
“For the umpteenth time, the House wishes to assure the general public that it would strictly follow due process of law as outlined in Section 188(1) – (9) of the Constitution.
“The House is not unaware of media reports that His Excellency, the Deputy Governor, has rushed to Court to stop the impeachment process. Media reports even claim he has secured an injunction from a certain Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to halt the process.
“The House is shocked that rather than wait to be served with notice of the allegation of gross misconduct, and react to same as required by the Constitution, the Deputy Governor has been running from pillar to post and filing multiply suits in both at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and the Ondo State High Courts in a bid to stop the legislative process.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the House is fully conscious of Section 188 (10) of the Constitution which clearly states that ‘No proceedings or determination of the panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court,” it said.
Citing the case of Abaribe V. Abia State House of Assembly (2022) 14 NWLR (Pt. 788) 466, the Speaker said the Court of Appeal emphatically stated that it was wrong for the Appellant to jump the gun by rushing to the Court to stop his impeachment process on the ground of alleged breach of fair hearing, when the panel to investigate and hear him had not even been constituted.
He said the Court of Appeal restated that by the provision of Section 188 (10) of the Constitution, no court has the jurisdiction at that stage to interfere in the legislative proceedings for impeachment.
“Supreme Court has repeatedly restated that the Court can only intervene when the procedures for impeachment have been breached. In this case, however, the Deputy Governor rushed to court even before the notice of impeachment was served on him. For the records, no procedures have been breached in any way.
“In view of these, the House has directed its team of Lawyers to investigate the purported injunction secured by the Deputy Governor and report any judicial officer who might have abused his office in granting the unconstitutional ex-parte injunction to the appropriate institution for necessary disciplinary action.”
Alex Enumah in Abuja and Fidelis David in Akure