In a recent turn of events, the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has issued a significant ruling, which has put a halt to the impeachment proceedings against the embattled Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Lucky Aiyedatiwa. This decision comes as a response to allegations of gross misconduct levied against him by the Ondo State House of Assembly.
The Legal Standstill
Justice Emeka Nwite, presiding over the case, delivered the ruling, which has temporarily suspended the impeachment process. The court has directed the House of Assembly to refrain from any further action regarding the impeachment until the matter is heard and determined in court. The adjournment for the hearing has been set for October 9, 2023, giving all parties involved time to prepare and present their cases.
Aiyedatiwa’s Plea for Justice
This crucial court order is a result of an ex-parte application filed by Mr. Aiyedatiwa’s legal representative, Kayode Adewusi. Among other requests, the court was urged to prevent Governor Rotimi Akeredolu from nominating a new deputy governor and forwarding the nomination to the Ondo State House of Assembly for confirmation. This request was to remain in effect until the main suit was resolved.
Defendants in the Suit
The suit, numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2023, includes several key figures as defendants. These are the Inspector-General of Police, the Department of State Services (DSS), Governor Akeredolu, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, the Chief Judge of Ondo State, and the House of Assembly itself. All of these entities are central to the unfolding legal drama.
Legal Basis for the Court’s Decision
Justice Nwite, after reviewing the ex-parte motion and accompanying affidavit of urgency, deemed it necessary to issue interim preservative orders. These orders are aimed at preventing any undue influence or interference in the functioning of Mr. Aiyedatiwa as the deputy governor of Ondo State. They serve to ensure that he can continue carrying out his official duties without impediment until a final judgment is reached.
Ondo Assembly’s Response
In a somewhat defiant stance, the lawmakers of the Ondo State House of Assembly have expressed their intent to proceed with the impeachment process, despite the court’s injunction. Speaker of the Assembly, Mr. Olamide Oladiji, issued a statement reaffirming their commitment to adhering to due process as outlined in Section 188(1) – (9) of the Constitution.
The Allegations of Gross Misconduct
The impeachment notice submitted by the lawmakers contains 14 specific allegations of gross misconduct against the deputy governor. Under Section 188(2) of the Constitution, it is required that at least one-third of the House’s members sign the impeachment notice. In this case, 11 members have endorsed the allegations.
The Deputy Governor’s Legal Maneuvers
It is worth noting that Mr. Aiyedatiwa, anticipating the impeachment process, took preemptive legal action by filing multiple suits at both the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court and the Ondo State High Courts. These actions were aimed at halting the legislative process, and they have indeed resulted in the issuance of the interim injunction by Justice Nwite.
Legal Precedent and Constitutional Framework
The Supreme Court has consistently emphasized that judicial intervention in impeachment proceedings should only occur when there are clear breaches of the constitutional procedures. In this particular case, the Deputy Governor sought legal remedies even before receiving formal notice of the allegations of gross misconduct. As such, no constitutional procedures have been violated.
The House’s Response to the Injunction
The Ondo State House of Assembly has responded to the interim injunction by directing its team of lawyers to investigate the circumstances surrounding the injunction. They intend to report any judicial officer who might be seen as having abused their office in granting what they consider an unconstitutional ex-parte injunction. This move reflects the Assembly’s determination to adhere to the constitutional process while addressing the allegations against the deputy governor.
In conclusion, the legal battle surrounding the impeachment of Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa of Ondo State has taken a significant turn with the Federal High Court’s interim injunction. While the court has temporarily halted the impeachment process, the House of Assembly remains resolute in pursuing the matter through constitutional procedures. The coming days and weeks promise to be pivotal in determining the fate of the embattled deputy governor, as the legal system carefully examines the allegations of gross misconduct.