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Impeachment: Court fixes date to hear Akeredolu, Aiyedatiwa’s applications

A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, fixed Oct. 30 to hear a preliminary objection filed by Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State against…

A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, fixed Oct. 30 to hear a preliminary objection filed by Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State against a suit filed by his deputy, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa, to stop his impeachment by the state’s house of assembly.

Justice Emeka Nwite, who adjourned the matter after Aiyedatiwa’s counsel, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, opposed the submission of Kassim Gbadamosi, SAN, lawyer to Akeredolu, on his insistence to have his application heard, also fixed same date for hearing the deputy governor’s counter affidavit.

Justice Nwite equally fixed the hearing of an application filed by the Ondo State House of Assembly and its Speaker challenging the jurisdiction of the court and a motion for a stay of execution of the interim order of the court filed by the lawmakers for the same date.

The judge, who directed Adegboruwa to ensure that the Inspector-General (IG) of the Police and the Department of State Service (DSS), the 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit, were served with all their processes, including the notice of hearing, asked all parties to put their house in order ahead of the next adjourned date.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Nwite had, on Sept 26, restrained the Ondo State House of Assembly from impeaching Aiyedatiwa over alleged gross misconduct.

Nwite gave the interim order in a ruling shortly after Aiyedatiwa’s counsel, Kayode Adewusi, moved the ex-parte motion to the effect.

He also restrained Akeredolu from nominating a new deputy governor and forwarding the same to the lawmakers for approval as the new state’s deputy governor based on a letter of resignation purportedly authored or signed by Aiyedatiwa, pending the hearing and determination of the interlocutory application.

The embattled deputy governor had, in an ex-parte motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2023, sued the IG and DSS as 1st and 2nd defendants.

Others joined in the suit include Akeredolu, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Chief Judge of Ondo State and the House of Assembly as 1st to 6th respondents respectively.

In the application dated and filed by Mr Adelanke Akinrata on Sept. 21, Aiyedatiwa sought for four reliefs.

Upon resumed hearing on Monday, Adegboruwa informed the court that based on Akeredolu’s preliminary objection served on them on Oct. 9, he had responded with a counter affidavit.

He also notified the court about an application dated Oct. 3 and filed by the speaker and the assembly, seeking a stay of execution of the interim order stopping the lawmakers from continuing with the impeachment process.

He argued that going by the application and recent events, the speaker and the assembly had insisted on non-compliance with the court order, despite their application challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit.

The senior lawyer said that despite the order, the 4th and 6th defendants (speaker and House of Assembly) had continued to act in contempt of the court order.

“Pursuant to this development, the plaintiff has filed an affidavit of facts dated 16 October 2023, exhibiting the decision of the 4th and 6th respondents in respect of the order of your lordship,” he said.

He said the IG and the DSS were yet to be served with their processes, including the counter affidavit in response to Akeredolu’s preliminary objection.

Adegboruwa, however, prayed the court to allow them to serve the IG and the DSS to avoid issues of lack of fair hearing.

He urged the court to hear the preliminary objection in conjunction with their substantive suit which, he said, was already ripe for hearing in the next adjourned date.

But Gbadamosi disagreed with Adegboruwa on his application seeking leave to serve the IG and the DSS before the court could hear their preliminary objection.

He said the court, based on its ruling on Oct. 9, said the matter for today would be for hearing of all pending applications.

“The court was aware of the time constraint when he adjourned for ruling and hearing of pending applications,” he said.

The senior lawyer argued that the prayer for an adjournment was an invitation for the court to overrule itself.

He also disagreed with Adegboruwa on the issue of contempt raised.

According to him, parties to a proceeding must be heard on all applications before the court.

He said affidavit of facts cannot take the place of Order 35 of the FHC Rules which set out procedures for contempt.

He said besides, the plaintiff had not taken any step as to committal proceeding in accordance with the rules.

“So there are no contempt proceedings pending before you on the issue of contempt,” he said.

Gbadamosi also disagreed that the originating summons of the plaintiff was ripe for hearing.

He urged the court to hear their preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court and not to wait for indolent parties (IG and DSS) on the issue of non-service.

The lawyer argued that the IG and DSS were aware of the suit but decided not to come to court because they were unconcerned.

Counsel to the speaker and house of assembly, Femi Emodamori, and that of the state’s chief judge (5th defendant), Grace Benson, aligned with Gbadamosi’s submission.

But Adegboruwa disagreed with the defence lawyers.

He said since Akeredolu served his application on the IG and the DSS, Aiyedatiwa cannot be denied the same opportunity to serve the defendants before hearing the matter.

He said though his counter-affidavits to 3rd, 4th and 6th defendants were served today, the IG and DSS ought to be served too.

According to him, non-appearance of 1st and 2nd defendants in court will not and should not nullify their right to be served.

He also clarified that there was no contempt charge filed by the plaintiff but an affidavit of facts to make the defendants purge themselves of their contemptuous acts.

Justice Nwite, who held that he would not embark on proceeding that would result in an exercise in futility, adjourned the matter until Oct. 30 for a ruling or hearing of all pending applications.

Earlier, Nwite dismissed Aiyedatiwa’s plea for indefinite adjournment of his suit pending the outcome of the reconciliation committee set up by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to settle the dispute between him and Akeredolu and based on the petition written by the state’s lawmakers against the judge.

In a ruling, the judge held that it was in the interest of justice to continue with the suit.

He said the suit could not be put on hold since there were different political parties which made up the assembly and that counsel to the defence indicated their disagreement with the reconciliatory effort. (NAN)

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