Impeachment: Shaibu’s counsel protests panel’s refusal to obey court order

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By Owen Eresoyen, Benin

Citing the disobedience of an interlocutory order by Justice I.E. Ekwo of Federal High Court, Abuja, preventing the 7-man panel set up by Edo State Chief Judge, Justice Daniel Okungbowa from investigating the impeachment allegations of gross misconduct by 21 out of the 24 Edo lawmakers against Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, his counsel Wednesday pulled out of the inaugural sitting.

Counsel to Comrade Shaibu, Prof. Oladoyin Awoyale, SAN, said the decision of the panel to continue with its inaugural proceedings amounted to a “deliberate act of disobedience of a court order and an attempt to foist a fait accompli on the court.”

Prof. Awoyale insisted that the retired Justice S. A. Omonua headed panel should obey the interlocutory order made by the Abuja Federal High Court.

He maintained that Justice Ekwo in the case marked suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/405/3024 gave an interlocutory order for proceedings of the panel to abate pending the return date next Monday, April 8, 2024 for the chairman and three other members of the panel to show cause why the relief by the embattled deputy governor should not be granted.

The deputy governor’s counsel further submitted that with the ruling of the Federal High Court Abuja, all parties must abide by the interlocutory order of the court, adding that continuing with the panel would amount to undermining the rule of law.

However, counsel to the House of Assembly, who is the Deputy Clerk, Legal Department, Joe Oaifi countered arguing that the panel’s sitting was supported by Section 188 (10) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, which forecloses any court from preventing the House of Assembly and the panel from discharging its constitutional responsibilities.

The deputy governor’s counsel further submitted that with the ruling of the Federal High Court Abuja, all parties must abide by the interlocutory order of the court, adding that continuing with the panel would amount to undermining the rule of law.

However, counsel to the House of Assembly, who is the Deputy Clerk, Legal Department, Joe Oaifi countered arguing that the panel’s sitting was supported by Section 188 (10) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended, which forecloses any court from preventing the House of Assembly and the panel from discharging its constitutional responsibilities.

Following the legal fireworks by counsels to the different parties, Justice Omonua adjourned for a short recess to rule on the matter.

In his ruling, after about two hours of adjournment, the chairman agreed with the submission of the counsel to the House of Assembly, ruling that the panel will go ahead with its sitting.

Peeved by the ruling, Prof. Awoyale walked out of the venue even as the panel continued with its sitting and adjourned at about 2.30pm to reconvene tomorrow, Thursday, April 4, 2024.