From Tony Osauzo, Benin

The Impeachment Panel investigating the allegations levelled against the Deputy Governor of Edo State, Philip Shaibu, by the state House of Assembly, yesterday, adjourned further sitting till today for the respondent to open his defence.

Earlier, the House of Assembly through its Deputy Clerk, Legal, Joe Ohiafi, had presented the Assembly’s allegations against Shaibu before the panel after Shaibu’s Counsel, Prof. Oladoyin Awoyale sought the leave of the panel to withdraw from further participation in the panel’s proceedings.

Professor Awoyale had drawn the order of Abuja High Court dated March 28, 2024 in suit N0.FHC/ABJ/CS/405 2024 between the deputy governor of Edo State, Inspector General of Police and seven others.

He said the court in its interlocutory order held that the Respondents, their Assigns, Agents howsoever called to show cause on the return date why the reliefs of the motion should not be granted the applicant.

He further stated that the order and the originating processes have been served on all the parties in the suit, adding that the matter has been adjourned to April 8, 2024 for the parties to show cause.

“My Lord, in view of this position, our client would not be able to further take part in the proceedings of this panel until the Federal High Court determines this issue one way or the other.

“My Lord, I submit respectfully that further taking part in this proceeding, would foist a faith accompli on the court in Abuja- a situation of helplessness.

“My Lord, we submit further that parties are bound to obey court orders, we submit further that taking part in the proceeding would violate the order of court.”

But the State House of Assembly Deputy Clerk, Legal, Joe Ohiafi, opposed the submissions of Shaibu’s Counsel and cited section 188 subsection 10 of the 1999 Constitution and contended that no court or panel can stop the proceedings of the House of Assembly.

“This panel is sui generic-on its own plane. The panel is protected by the Constitution to carry on its proceedings.”

Professor Awoyale, however, countered Ohiafi’s argument saying that it was misplaced and has no basis in law and cited several cases including Balarabe Musa against Kaduna State House of Assembly and Supreme Court decision in Inakoju and Adeleke reported in 2007 All Nigeria Weekly Law Report Part 1025 and 423, adding that a panel will not close its eyes to issues surrounding subsection 1-9 of section of 188 of the Constitution.

He said a look at the reliefs borders on the violation of the fundamental rights of the Respondent.

Related News

The panel however pointed out that there was no court order as indicated by Shaibu’s Counsel but only that parties should show cause.

It, thereafter, rose to consider the arguments òf the Counsel to the parties.

In its ruling, the Panel held that the deputy governor did not have any court order stopping it from sitting and agreed with the submission of the Deputy Clerk, Legal to the State Assembly “no court can stop the panel, especially as there was court stopping the panel from sitting”.

Following panel’s ruling, Shaibu’s Counsel, Prof. Awoyale said: “Like we said earlier we would be unable to continue the proceeding. We seek your Lordship’s indulgence to excuse us. If we continue, that means we are sitting on an appeal over the Abuja High Court.” He then got up and left the court.

Shortly after, the Chairman of the Panel, Justice S.A Omonuwa, held that the decision of the Respondent’s Counsel not to continue after the ruling, will not affect the panel’s sitting.

This paved the way for the State House of Assembly through the Deputy Clerk, Legal, Joe Ohiafi, to open its case at the panel against Shaibu.

He said by the provision of the 7th schedule of 1999 Constitution, Shaibu took oath as Deputy Governor of Edo State.

At this point, the panel chairman asked him if he was a Counsel or a witness in the case, reminding him that if he was a witness he should not make submissions. Ohiafi replied that he was a witness.

He told the panel that having taken oath, Shaibu promised not to divulge official information but that in the suit he filed at Abuja High Court, the Deputy Governor deposed the affidavit where he laid bare official secrets and documents, some bordering on state security in the suit.

He presented a copy of the suit to the panel and pointed out that Shaibu admitted attending Exco meeting on 17th July 2023 but later claimed he was not being invited to meetings whereas he attended another Exco meeting on 19th July 2023 where he signed the attendance register.

The panel however pointed out that the attendance register before it was a photocopy, which Ohiafi admitted and promised to provide a certified true copy.

Continuing, Ohiafi told the panel that what Shaibu presented in paragraphs 8ii and 8 is of his affidavit in the suit, for public Officer, amounted to perjury.

He also said the Deputy Governor divulged official secrets in his court documents- CPS A1, A2 and A3 an action he alleged contravened section 188 subsection 11 of the Constitution, adding that misconduct in the opinion of the State House of Assembly is misconduct which is not subject to their interpretation.