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Supreme Court voids Ladoja's removal

Posted by From Gbolahan Gbadamosi, Madu Onuorah and Lemmy Ughegbe (Abuja) on 2006/12/08 | Views: 1752 |

Supreme Court voids Ladoja's removal

IT was sweet victory yesterday for the Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, as his controversial impeachment by a factionalised legislature on January 12 this year, was nullified by the Supreme Court.

* Obasanjo concurs, restores Gov's security

IT was sweet victory yesterday for the Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, as his controversial impeachment by a factionalised legislature on January 12 this year, was nullified by the Supreme Court.

The judgment, which puts an effective end to the dispute, has been endorsed by President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN).

President Obasanjo immediately ordered the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, to restore the governor's security aides and enforce the court's decision.

The justice minister, who spoke with The Guardian on telephone from Moscow, Russia where he has led a Federal Government delegation to sign a treaty, said that there was no other authority to appeal to after the judgment of the apex court. He advised anybody who might have a contrary opinion to that of the court to note that the rule of law is supreme.

All six opinions of the apex court's seven-member panel of justices yesterday ruled in favour of the governor. The seventh Justice, George Adesola Oguntade, reserved his judgment to January 12, 2007, when the court will give the reasons for its opinion.

But the remaining six justices opted for summary judgment.

With one voice, they dismissed the appeal filed by 18 out of the state assembly's 32 members, in which they challenged the nullification of the impeachment process by the Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan, on November 1.

The presiding justice, Idris Legbo Kutigi, delivered the lead judgment. With him were Justices Aloysius Katsina-Alu, Niki Tobi, Dahiru Musdapher, Sunday Akintan, Francis Ogbuagu and Oguntade.

Oguntade said: "This appeal raised very important constitutional issues. Also involved is the right to fair hearing."

He continued: "I have pleaded unsuccessfully with my colleagues on this bench that the matter be adjourned for a week to enable us consider the judicial authorities cited by counsel."

Oguntade added: " I am unable to express a view on that judgment without first taking a look at the judicial authorities cited and fully digest the law on the matter and since the matter has been adjourned till January 12, I intend to react to the judgment given."

But that was not the case for Justice Kutigi, who delivered the lead judgment. He declared: "Having looked at the briefs, the record of this case and the oral submissions of counsel, in view of the fact that time is of essence in this case, I am of the opinion that judgment should be given immediately. I hereby dismiss the appeal in its entirety as it is unmeritorious."

He added: "The judgment of the Court of Appeal is hereby affirmed. I will give the reason for the judgment on the 12th of January 2007."

Kutigi called on his brother justices, who, one after the other, concurred with his lead judgment.

The delivery of the judgment yesterday took all lawyers in the case by surprise as they had gone to the court only to close the case and get a date for judgment.

But the justices shocked them when, after all the parties had adopted their briefs of argument, they rose for about 45 minutes only to return with the judgment.

Adopting his brief, Chief Tunji Ayanlaja (SAN), who had Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) with him for the 18 lawmakers, urged the court to uphold the appeal.

All respondents raised three issues for determination. Ayanlaja did not elaborate on his brief, but Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), who represented the purportedly removed Speaker, Abraham Adeolu Adeleke and his deputy, Titilayo Ademola, was asked by Oguntade to explain the issue raised by the appellants.

The appellants had argued that the matter before the Court of Appeal was the issue of jurisdiction and not the merit of the case.

Reacting to the judgment, Olanipekun commended the court for dealing with the matter expeditiously. He described the apex court justices as "the guardian angels of our nascent democracy". This position was also endorsed by Ayanlaja.

Ladoja's counsel, Yusuf Alli (SAN), said: "When Ladoja was impeached and I asked him what becomes of the other cases, he said to me let us pursue them to a logical end; it is only through the court that I can fight my battle. That is the only way I know how to fight. My lords, by your judgment you have affirmed Ladoja's faith in the court as the last hope of every man, and not only the common man."

President Obasanjo yesterday welcomed the verdict and directed the Police and other security agencies to immediately implement it.

Describing the verdict as the affirmation of the efficacy of the nation's judiciary, Obasanjo urged all citizens of Oyo State to accept it in good faith and go about their normal duties.

This was contained in a press statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media), Mrs. Oluremi Oyo.

She said that Obasanjo welcomed the judgment "as an affirmation of the efficacy of the country's judiciary in the resolution of disputes that are bound to arise as we strive to build and strengthen our democratic institutions."

The statement continued: "President Obasanjo has also ordered the Inspector-General of Police and other relevant agencies to ensure the immediate enforcement of the Supreme Court's decision upholding the nullification of Alhaji Ladoja's impeachment."

It added: "The President urges all citizens and residents of Oyo State to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court in good faith and to go about their affairs as law-abiding citizens in the full assurance that the Federal Government will continue to ensure the maintenance of peace, security, law and order in the state."

The appellants had raised the following issues for determination:

_ Whether the Court of Appeal was right in its determination that the High Court had jurisdiction to entertain the question of impeachment of the Party / Respondent as the Governor of Oyo State without:

(a) a decision of Lower Court as to whether or not there had been any non - compliance with Section 188 (1) - (9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 and or

(b) proof of non - compliance with Section 188 (1) - (9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

Whether the Court of Appeal was right in its determination that the High Court of Justice Oyo State had jurisdiction to entertain a question as to the impeachment of the Party Interested / Respondents as the Governor of Oyo State having regard to:
(i) the provisions of Section 188 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria ; and

(ii) the question of locus of the Plaintiffs.

_ Whether the Court of Appeal was right in considering the merits of the originating summons and granting all the reliefs sought by the Plaintiffs / Respondents pursuant to Section 16 of the Court of Appeal Act and in the absence of the power in the High Court of Oyo State in granting those reliefs as at the stage of proceedings before it and also in not affording the Defendants / Appellants the opportunity to present their own defence (by way of Counter - Affidavit) to the action.

Sequel to the Supreme Court's judgment, the team of lawyers to Ladoja and the former Speaker immediately wrote a letter to Ehindero, demanding the immediate reinstatement of the governor.

The lawyers also warned banks holding the accounts of Oyo State not to honour any transaction from the governor's deputy, Adebayo Alao-Akala, who had assumed office as the state's helmsman.

The lawyers said that the banks would be held liable if they continued to do business with the deputy governor.

The letter to the IG reads: "You will recall that the Court of Appeal, Ibadan on the 1st of November, 2006 gave judgment in the appeal before it and set aside the purported removal from office of Senator Rashidi Ladoja as the Governor of Oyo State, including all steps taken to effect the purported removal from office.

"Immediately after the judgment, leading counsel to all the appellants wrote you a letter informing you of the judgment of the court, the need to give full effect to the said judgment and restore all the security details of the Governor to enable him immediately resume the functions of his office without any impairment or hindrance.

"In your replies to Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN and Yusuf O. Alli, SAN, you did say that although an appeal does not operate as a stay of execution and that executory judgment cannot be stayed, nevertheless, you would wait for the advice of the Attorney-General of the Federation on the subject and the Supreme Court decision.

"We are happy to inform you that the Supreme Court of Nigeria, sitting as a full constitutional court comprising seven eminent Justices today, the 7th December, 2006, instantly dismissed the appellants' appeal as unmeritorious and without any substance.

"The apex court went further to uphold in its entirety the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on 1st November, 2006.

"In view of the foregoing, we now call on you as the Inspector General of Police of Nigeria to not only restore fully the Security details of the Governor of Oyo State, but also ensure that a conducive atmosphere is created to enable him immediately resume the duties of his office as Governor of Oyo State without any let or hindrance.

"Permit us to repeat the point that contrary to what is being paraded in some quarters regarding the judgment of the Court of Appeal which has now been wholly and fully affirmed and confirmed by the Supreme Court, a specific order was made setting side all steps taken and initiated to effect the purported removal from office of the constitutionally elected Governor of Oyo State.

"In other words, the Supreme Court held, inter alia, that there was no removal ab initio.

Thanking you for urgently attending to this letter in the interest of the Rule of Law, respect for the compelling authority of the judiciary, the sanctity of its judgment and in order to safe guard our nascent democracy."

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown