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Impeachment: Drama as Edo Assembly’s counsel turns witness

A mild drama unfolded yesterday during the inaugural sitting of the panel set up to investigate impeachable allegations against the Edo State deputy governor, Philip Shaibu,…

A mild drama unfolded yesterday during the inaugural sitting of the panel set up to investigate impeachable allegations against the Edo State deputy governor, Philip Shaibu, as the counsel for the State House of Assembly turned witness during the sitting.

Recall that the chief judge of the state had constituted the seven-man panel on March 22 to investigate allegations against the deputy governor, following a directive by the State House of Assembly.

At the commencement of the sitting on Wednesday, the panel, headed by retired Justice S. A. Omonuwa, overruled the objection raised by the deputy governor, insisting on continuing its investigation as there was no court order foreclosing it.

The ruling came after counsel to Shaibu, Professor Oladoyin Awoyale (SAN), objected to the continuation of the investigation, citing a Federal High Court order requiring the panel to show cause why an interlocutory injunction to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the case should not be granted to the plaintiff (Philip Shaibu). The court order was issued on March 28, with the case adjourned to April 8.

Awoyale explained that his client would not participate in the panel’s proceedings until the court decides in his favour or otherwise.

However, the counsel to the Edo State House of Assembly, Joe Ohiafi, who is also the Deputy Clerk, Legal of the House, urged the panel to overrule the respondent’s counsel, citing Section 188, Subsection 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which he argued does not allow a court to invalidate the panel set up by a House of Assembly.

In his ruling, the chairman of the panel stated that the issues raised by the deputy governor’s counsel pertained to his client’s fundamental human rights and did not warrant stopping the panel’s proceedings.

Awoyale then announced that his client would cease participating in the investigation and sought the panel’s permission to withdraw from the case.

Meanwhile, drama ensued when the panel chairman asked the counsel to the State Assembly if he was appearing as counsel or a witness. Ohiafi, who had earlier introduced himself as counsel to the House, subsequently identified himself as a witness, leaving the complainant without legal representation.

During his testimony, Ohiafi presented a Vanguard newspaper publication dated March 12, which served as a substituted impeachment notice on the state deputy governor by the State House of Assembly, among other pieces of evidence.

The panel adjourned sitting to Thursday, April 4, to allow the respondent to respond to the allegations levelled against him. It is, however, unclear if the deputy governor would be making an appearance after his counsel said he would cease participating in the investigation until the final determination of the suit he instituted before the Federal High Court in Abuja.

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