Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
Attempt by 14 members of the Ondo State House of Assembly to impeach the Deputy Governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi may have suffered a serious setback as the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu has rejected the request by the lawmakers to set up a seven man panel of inquiry to probe allegations of gross misconduct leveled against Ajayi.
Speaker of the House, Bamidele Oleyelogun had on Thursday sent a letter to the Chief Judge notifying her of plans to impeach the deputy governor. Attached to the Speaker’s letter was a document signed by 14 members of the House on their resolve to impeach Ajayi for alleged gross misconduct.
But, nine other lawmakers loyal to the Deputy Governor also sent a letter to the Chief Judge, where they rejected the plan to impeach the deputy governor, claiming that the 14 lawmakers that signed the impeachment notice did not have the constitutional rights to impeach him.
However, the Chief Judge in a letter addressed to the Speaker 9th July, 2020 said the House had not completed all constitutional processes that could make her set up panel of inquiry to probe the deputy governor.
In her letter with reference number CROD/1123/V.3/54 titled “Re: Request to set up seven man panel to pursuant to section 185(5) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”, the Chief Judge said the House has not fulfilled all constitutional provisions regarding the impeachment process.
She said “The members of the House of Assembly have not completed the constitutional processes that would lead your very good self invite me to investigate allegations of gross misconduct as stipulated in the constitution.
“Furthermore, I wish to bring to your notice the copy of a letter which I received from Kayode Olatoke, SAN, which tells me clearly that the matter of impeachment of Mr Agboola Ajayi is sub judice.”
The Chief Judge said the Speaker’s letter sent to her was accompanied by notice of allegation of gross misconduct against the deputy governor dated 7th July, 2020, listed of members of the House, their proceedings of Tuesday 7th July and notice of impeachment signed by 14 members of the Assembly.
Others, she said include, document titled ‘Office of the Permanent Secretary/Accountant General, Ondo State summary of funds released to the office of the deputy governor for the period of 2019 to May 2020’, letter from the state chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Mr Ade Adetimehin and ITDC Limited document dated 2nd February, 2007.
She said the documents were not enough for her to proceed with the setting up of a seven members panel to probe the deputy governor as provided by the constitution. According to the Chief Judge, the Constitution stipulates that the deputy governor be served with notice of impeachment signed by not less than one-third of members of the House of Assembly.
She said the notice to be served on the deputy governor must state that he is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office and also specify the particulars of the gross misconduct. Also, the Chief Judge said the deputy governor must be allowed to respond to the allegations of gross misconduct leveled against him.
She added that “within 14 days of receipt, the Speaker, whether or not the deputy governor responds, the House of Assembly shall pass a resolution supported by not less than two-third majority of all members of the House of Assembly that the allegations be investigated.” The deputy governor when asked to react to the development, said the issue was between the state House of Assembly and the Chief Judge, hence he has nothing to say on it.
It was however learnt that the 14 lawmakers pushing for the impeachment of the deputy governor have called a meeting to be held outside the House of Assembly complex, after which their position will be made known to the public.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ese-Odo local government area of Ondo state, Samuel Olorunwa has resigned his membership of the party. He tendered his resignation letter at the party secretariat on Friday and announced his defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Olorunwa in a telephone conversation, said he resigned his position as chairman as well as being a member of APC from Friday 10th July, 2020.
It was gathered that his action was propelled by the recent defection of the state deputy governor, Mr Agboola Ajayi to the PDP. Both Ajayi and Olorunwa hail from the same local government and the duo are said to be political associates.