From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
Reprieve came the way of former deputy governor of Imo, Jude Agbaso, yesterday, as his impeachment by the seventh state Assembly, has been quashed by the High Court.
Agbaso, who was the first deputy governor to former governor Rochas Okorocha, was impeached by the seventh Assembly in 2013 on trumped up charges of accepting Red Label Whiskey bribe from the boss of J-Bros Construction Company.
Also, Agbaso was accused of acts of grave corruption, including the demand of a bribe of N458 million from a contractor, J-Pross Construction Company.
The former deputy governor had filed a suit asking the Hhigh Court to bar the legislators impeaching him, arguing that he was a victim of political intrigue and blackmail. The court refused to intervene, leaving the room for the lawmakers to sack Agbaso.
However, an Owerri High Court presided over by Justice S. I. Opara nullified the impeachment and ordered the restoration of all his rights and benefits from the time of his removal to the period his tenure elapsed.
After the impeachment, Agbaso also approached the court to quash the impeachment and reinstate him to his seat, but could not achieve that before the end of his tenure.
He continued seeking redress in the courts until on February 1, when parties in the matter finally reached terms of settlement, which document was filed on February 2 before the Imo State High Court.
According to Agbaso’s counsel, Chijioke Emeka, his client and the defendants which included the state governor, House of Assembly and the chief judge also requested that the terms of settlement be used as judgment in court.
Delivering the judgment, Opara said he was giving the consent judgment based on the terms of settlement reached by parties in the matter.
Briefing journalists after the court session, Agbaso’s counsel disclosed the consent judgment had nullified the impeachment of his client on March 28, 2013, as the deputy governor of the state.
The counsel said the judgment had restored his client’s entitlements as a former deputy governor of the state and had been legally fit to hold public positions again.
He said the parties had to ‘shift grounds’ in order to reach truce on the terms of settlements.
Agbaso, who was in court, told journalists he was elated to be vindicated, eight years after he was accused of being involved in fraud.
He accused former Governor Okorocha of intentionally framing him up “just to get me out of the way.”
After the judgment, Agbaso said: “It has been a torturous eight years but I thank the good people of Imo State who committed the mandate to me in 2011. I thank the government of Governor Hope Uzodinma for its bold stand which hastened the resolution.
“I also thank my lawyers for their tenacity and steadfastness since 2013, taking the the case up to the Supreme Court and back to the High Court without charging professional fees.
“I thank my family for their all-time support, especially during the darkest moments when like the proverbial dog, I was given a bad name in order to hang me. I dedicate my belated vindication to the memory of my dear wife, Ihuoma, who supported me all the way and looked forward to this day, but sadly did not live to see it.”