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18 March, 2013

Imo State Deputy Face Impeachment

Sir Jude Agbaso

Faced with impeachment threats, the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Sir Jude Agbaso has asked the High Court of Imo State and a Federal High Court in Owerri to stop moves to remove him by the state House of Assembly
He asked the court to restrain the state Chief Judge, Justice A B Njemanze and the impeachment panel from taking further step with his removal from office, pending the determination of the suit.
The deputy governor specifically urged the court to “stop the Imo CJ from acting on a request from the Speaker of the state Assembly, Hon Benjamin Anyanwu to appoint a six- man panel to further proceed against his removal over unfounded allegation, conclusion or recommendation of the panel pending the determination of the suit.”
The defendants in the suit are the six - man panel (Hons Simeon Iwunze, Ikenna Emeh, Greg Okemili, Innocent Ekeh, Kingsley Dimaku and Samuel Anyanwu) the Speaker (Uwajumogu), state Assembly, Imo CJ, and the Commissioner of Police, Imo State Command.
In a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed at the state High Court, dated March 14, 2013, Agbaso averred that the constitution of the panel did not follow due process.
He said if the impeachment panel is allowed to go ahead, it would “present a fait accompli on the court and render its decision nugatory.”
The deputy governor pleaded with the court to “take judicial notice of the fact that the Imo CJ is aware of the pending suit.
He said the CJ had assigned the suit to Justice F I Duruoha Igwe and directed that the matter be entertained on Monday, March 18, 2013.
Some of the grounds for the reliefs being sought by Agbaso:
  • The applicant is apprehensive that the defendants will go ahead with further breach of his right to fair hearing by proceeding on the contents of the challenged document against him before the substantive suit is determined, which will work exceptional hardship on the applicant.
  • Unless the restraining court orders are made, the defendants will do everything any moment from now to present the court with a fait accompli and render the decision on the application nugatory.
  • Given the nature of their statuses and offices personal service of the order and originating process cannot be conveniently effected on them. He said: “The posers then are:  If the CJ knew there was a case where himself was a defendant and there is a prayer for him to be restrained from as the CJ of the state from acting on a request by the Speaker of the Imo State House to appoint a panel of 7 persons to further proceed against the applicant (Jude Agbaso) in any manner howsoever in connection with his removal from office as the deputy governor of Imo State;
· whether on an allegation, conclusion, finding or recommendation on any issue in, connected with or relating to the report of the special ad hoc committee constituted by the House of Assembly, why did he go ahead with the constitution of the panel knowing full well that section allows him 188(5) of 1999 Constitution, a period of seven days between the passing of the motion by the House and the appointment of seven persons by the CJ?
· .In view of the fact that the Speaker and clerk of the House have received copies of the processes filed in court on Thursday 14th of March, and thereby being aware that there was a pending suit, could they legitimately in a country governed by rule of law do anything to over reach the pending suit. The Speaker is a trained lawyer and he ought to aware of the legal position
The applicant pleaded with the court to grant an “order of interim injunction, restraining the commissioner of police and his agents from harassing and intimidating him or invading his residence or office pending the exhaustion of all legal options available to him under the 1999 Constitution (as amended) against the defendants.”
Agbaso is also seeking an order for substituted service of the court processes on the defendants through their agents or through advertisement in two newspapers including DAILY SUN newspaper.
Agbaso through his lawyer, Mr. Patrick Ikweoto (SAN) urged the court to note that “in spite of the pendency of the suit, the Imo CJ went ahead to constitute the seven-man impeachment panel.
Ikweoto also cited the case of Chief Adefarati v. Ondo State Governor “on the sanctity of not taking any further step over pending suit in order not to overreach the court.
Meanwhile, Agbaso has also filed another suit before a Federal High Court in Owerri against the defendants, challenging the propriety of the impeachment proceedings against him.
He is asking to hold that he is entitled to fair hearing as enshrined in section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)
He urged the court to grant a perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and their agents from proceeding with the impeachment process.

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