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Ekiti: Crisis rocks panel inauguration

Posted by By MUYIWA ODU and TUNDE RAHEEM, Ado-Ekiti on 2006/10/10 | Views: 353 |

Ekiti: Crisis rocks panel inauguration


It was bedlam yesterday at an Ado-Ekiti High Court, venue of the inauguration of the committee to investigate charges of corruption and abuse of office against Governor Ayodele Fayose and his deputy, Abiodun Olujimi, as the state Chief Judge, Justice Kayode Bamisile and the state lawmakers disagreed over the composition of the seven-man panel.

It was bedlam yesterday at an Ado-Ekiti High Court, venue of the inauguration of the committee to investigate charges of corruption and abuse of office against Governor Ayodele Fayose and his deputy, Abiodun Olujimi, as the state Chief Judge, Justice Kayode Bamisile and the state lawmakers disagreed over the composition of the seven-man panel.

The swearing in was disrupted midway into the ceremony when some of the legislators, led by the speaker, Friday Aderemi, stormed the courtroom and demanded that proceedings be halted.

Stern resistance by the Chief Judge to this demand led to a hot altercation between him and the lawmakers. It took the spirited effort of the security agents within the vicinity to restore calm to the charged environment.

The inauguration ceremony had begun on a peaceful note, with the chief judge making preambles. In it, he complained that he had been under pressure from people who wanted to influence the membership of the panel, but that he had resisted it because he wanted to act according to his conscience. The chief judge regretted that the pressure was so much that such unscrupulous people went to his town to enlist the support of his kin, including the traditional ruler and in-laws to influence him, but that he rebuffed them all.

He said he was guided by his conscience and the fear of God in selecting the members, who, he described as neutral people, who would ensure justice.
It was at this point that the Speaker barged in with his team, asking the chief judge to suspend the swearing-in, alleging that the members were people of questionable characters. For about 10 minutes, the entire courtroom became rowdy as the Speaker mounted the judge’s arena to give vent to their grouse.

He claimed that members of the panel would not carry out their assignment as expected, alleging that: "Majority of them are men of shady characters who in one form or the other had engaged in official misconduct while serving in the previous administration in the state and that is why we are asking the chief judge to put on hold the swearing-in."

He said further: "The panel should be nullified. I, the Speaker reject the members of the panel as constituted by the Chief Judge in totality. We asked the CJ to do a job and can as well ask him to stop the inauguration. The people he appointed would not do a thorough job. So, in a nutshell, we reject the composition."
However, the lawmakers’ demand met a brick-wall as Justice Bamisile, apparently unshaken by their actions, went on with the inauguration of the members of the panel.

Justice Bamisile, beating his chest, submitted that he had absolute power to constitute and inaugurate members of the panel as assigned under the 1999 constitution. He described the speaker as a joker, pointing out that he (CJ) was head of the judiciary and could not take orders from the head of the legislature.

Justice Bamisile pointed out that the legislators could not be judge in their own matter.
The chief judge disclosed that there had been so much pressure on him since the list of the panel members was made known.
"The list I am presenting was drawn by me and these men are people of integrity whom I have regard for," he submitted and consequently went ahead to swear-in members of the panel. The proceedings lasted 30 minutes.

Shortly after the ceremony, a source close to the lawmakers’ camp hinted Daily Sun that the speaker planned to write the Chief Judge to appear before the state House of Assembly in connection with the incident. The opposition were said to have also vowed to get a court injunction to stop the work of the panel.

Meanwhile, the panel began sitting Tuesday after it reconvened at noon. At the inaugural sitting, its chairman, Mr Remi Bamigboye, pledged that the committee would be fair to all concerned. He said they had been called to serve Ekiti and would discharge their duty without fear or favour.
He warned lobbyists to steer clear of the committee.

Bamigboye said members of the panel had been receiving anonymous calls and were being harrassed by security agents telling them that authorities from the top are interested in Fayose’s impeachment.
Although counsel to Governor Fayose, Mr Yusuf Ali (SAN) was at the sitting, lawyer to the House of Assembly did not show up.

The panel adjourned sitting till Thursday to give both parties ample time to make their submissions.
Tuesday’s incident may appear, however, to have put the opposition in a quandary on how to proceed with the impeachment agenda. A governor’s loyalist feared that the next line of action might be to persuade the presidency to impose a state of emergency, after sponsoring violence in parts of the state.

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