OBASEKI/SHAIBU FEUD GETS MESSIER: Edo assembly directs CJ to probe allegations against Shaibu

  • Abuja court rejects deputy governor’s bid to stop impeachment
  • Tackle insecurity, stop selfish impeachment move, CRPP tells Obaseki
  • INEC kicks against parallel primaries, unnecessary litigations
  • Says there’ll be no extension of time for parties to upload particulars of candidates

The crisis of confidence between the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki and his embattled deputy, Philip Shaibu took a dangerous turn on Tuesday as the Edo State House of Assembly passed a resolution directing the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, to set up a seven-man committee to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct leveled against the deputy governor.

At the plenary, 19 members out of the 24 members voted in favour of the resolution.

The House of Assembly commenced impeachment proceedings against Shaibu on March 5, accusing him of perjury and leaking of government’s secrets.

However, all efforts to get the impeachment notice to him proved abortive as he was said to be out of the state.

After it became clear that the notice could not be served physically, the House served him the notice on March 12 through substitution (by publishing the letter in three national dailies).

The impeachment move was believed to be the latest development in the rift between Shaibu and Obaseki.

There had been an uneasy calm between the deputy governor and his principal since last year when Shaibu declared his interest to join this year’s Edo governorship race.

Earlier, Speaker of the House, Blessing Agbebaku, had notified his colleagues that the seven-day ultimatum granted the deputy governor to respond to the impeachment notice served on him has expired.

Agbebaku said the impeachment notice was earlier served on the deputy governor on March 6, 2024, but due to the alleged evasion of service, the House ordered substituted service.

He said the notice was published in the Vanguard newspaper on March 12, 2024, noting that March 19, 2024 (Tuesday) made it seven days.

In his motion, the Majority Leader of the House, Charity Aiguobarueghan, and seconded by Nicholas Asonsere, representing Ikpoba Okha constituency, moved that the Chief Judge be directed to set up a seven- man committee to investigate the petition against the deputy governor.

Aiguobarueghan averred that the motion was in line with Section 188 Subsections 3 and 4 of the constitution.

He noted that failure of the deputy governor to respond to the petition at the stipulated times was also in conformity with the provision of Section 188 sub section 3, where it was clearly stated that “whether he respond or not the House has a duty to perform”.

He added, “That duty as bestowed by Section 188 Subsection 3 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that a motion be moved when it will be resolved and that if this allegation is not denied, it is worthy of investigation.

“I am, therefore, moving a motion in pursuant to Section 188 Subsection 3 and 4 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria that is designed not to be argued.

“That the notice serves on the deputy governor alleging gross misconduct to be sent for investigations and that the speaker caused the Chief Judge of the state to set up a seven-man committee to look at the allegations and report its findings to this House as soon as possible.”

Nineteen members of the House voted in support of the motion.

In his remarks, the Speaker of the House directed the chief judge to set up a seven-man committee to investigate the petition against the deputy governor.

Abuja court rejects Shaibu’s bid to stop impeachment

However, a Federal High Court in Abuja has refused to grant an ex-parte motion filed by Shaibu seeking an interim order to stop the impeachment process by the state House of Assembly.

In the motion marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/321/2024, the state government; the state governor; the state House of Assembly; the state House of Assembly Speaker; Clerk, the state Chief Judge; Inspector General of Police and Director General of the Department of State Services were listed as first to eight defendants.

Shaibu, in the suit, sought an order of the court restraining the third to fifth defendants from commencing any process by issuing a notice of allegation, holding proceedings, or setting up any panel of investigation for his removal pending the hearing of a motion on notice.

He also sought an interim injunction restraining the defendants whether by themselves or their agents, from interfering with the res/subject matter of the originating summons filed in the suit either by way of taking any adverse actions about any attempt or process targeted at his removal from office as the deputy governor pending the hearing of the motion on notice.

Other reliefs sought are, “An order of interim injunction restraining the 1st-8th defendants whether by themselves, their agents, privies, servants, officials, representatives and/or any other person or authority acting through them from preventing the plaintiff either by threat of removal from office or adverse actions capable of hindering the plaintiff from performing his official duties and discharging his responsibilities as the Deputy Governor of Edo State including, attending State Executive Council meetings/functions and other duties.

“An order of interim injunction directing the defendants herein jointly, whether by themselves, their agents, privies, servants, officials, representatives, and/or any other person or authority acting through them to maintain status quo ante bellum prevailing before the issuance of the purported notice or petition to commence removal of the Plaintiff from office pending the hearing and the final determination of the Motion on Notice.”

However, in the ruling dated March 13, the trial judge, Justice James Omotosho, declined the deputy governor’s prayers.

It read, “That the motion exparte for interim injunction dated and filed 8th day of March 2024 is hereby refused.”

Meanwhile, at the proceedings on Tuesday, the judge fixed Wednesday for hearing in another motion ex-parte brought by the plaintiff seeking substituted service on the defendants due to his inability to serve them.

Tackle insecurity, stop selfish impeachment move, CRPP tells Obaseki

In another development, the Coalition of Registered Political Parties, Edo State chapter, has urged the state House of Assembly and Governor Obaseki to jettison the impeachment move against Shaibu.

The body stated this in a statement by the chairman, Samson Isibor, on Tuesday while reacting to the order given by the assembly to the Chief Judge, Daniel Okungbowa, to constitute a seven-man committee to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct leveled against Shaibu.

The statement read, “The CRPP was surprised that despite interventions of well-meaning Nigerians including highly respected religious leaders and political leaders, appealing to Governor Godwin Obaseki and the Edo State House of Assembly members and leadership to exercise restraint and jettison their planned impeachment of the deputy governor of the state, Philip Shaibu, they are unperturbed and still going ahead to carry out their unpopular move to impeach the deputy governor.

“The assembly failed to realise that the case is not a personal issue, those who live in a glass house must not throw stones. If they believe in justice and fair play, they should gladly honour the court summons and present their allegations against the deputy governor in an open court instead of displaying rascality. A clean mind fears no accusation.

“We had earlier affirmed the innocence of the deputy governor of any accusation level against him; rather it was witch-hunting and political victimization of the highest order by Governor Obaseki because his deputy dared come out to exercise his constitutional right to be voted for.

“As we’ve said earlier, nobody has the right to stop anybody from exercising his/her constitutional right to participate in any election, Obaseki has no power to stop his deputy from voting or being voted for.

“Almost eight years now, we have not experienced good governance in Edo State, while infrastructural developments throughout the state are lacking.

“Insecurity is on the high side, herdsmen kidnap daily, cost of living is becoming unbearable and these are issues the governor should be tackling instead of embarking on selfish impeachment move.”

INEC kicks against acrimonious primaries, condemns conduct of parallel polls

Consequently, ahead of the September 21 and November 16 Edo and Ondo States governorship elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission has charged political parties to avoid acrimonious primaries even as it condemned the frequent occurrence of increasingly conduct of parallel primaries and the emergence of multiple candidates.

Giving the charge during the first quarterly consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja on Tuesday, the Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, said the Commission is joined as party in the unnecessary litigations among party members caused by some of these infractions.

“Political parties should avoid acrimonious primaries. Increasingly, the conduct of parallel primaries and the emergence of multiple candidates is a frequent occurrence. So too is the tendency to grant waivers to candidates who were a few days earlier card-carrying members of other political parties and nominating such persons to the Commission as their candidates for election.

“Some of these infractions lead to unnecessary litigations among party members in which the Commission is always joined as a party. The legal fees and cost of producing Certified True Copies (CTCs) of documents can be used more productively in other electoral activities by both the political parties and the Commission. We must find a solution to this situation.

“It is my pleasure to welcome you to our first regular quarterly consultative meeting for this year. This is also our first meeting since the election of a new leadership for the umbrella body of political parties in Nigeria, the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC). It is therefore appropriate on this occasion to congratulate the new Chairman of IPAC who is also the Chairman of the Allied People’s Movement (APM), Yusuf Dantalle, and other officials of the Council on their election. The Commission looks forward to working with you harmoniously in the best interest of our electoral democracy of which political parties are a strong pillar for elective representation,” Yakubu said.

Yakubu reminded them that with the exception of two constituencies in Enugu and Kano States, winners have emerged from the by-elections and rerun elections conducted last month and added that like the 2023 general election, the recent by-elections and re-run elections also produced the most diverse outcome in terms of party representation.

“Seven political parties won elections in different National and State Assembly constituencies. In some cases, parties won elections in constituencies outside their assumed strongholds. We congratulate the winners. However, as you are aware, elections were disrupted by thugs in Enugu South 1 State Constituency of Enugu State and Kunchi/Tsanyawa State Constituency of Kano State. We are engaging with stakeholders, including the security agencies. Very soon, a new date will be announced for the re-run elections in the two State constituencies,” he said.

According to him, “The main focus of today’s meeting is the off-cycle governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States. As you are aware, the two elections are holding later this year. The Edo State Governorship election is holding in the next six months i.e. Saturday 21st September 2024 while the Ondo State Governorship election is holding in eight months i.e. Saturday 16thNovember 2024.

“Already, party primaries for the Edo State governorship election have been concluded. By the timetable and schedule of activities for the election, political parties have 20 days to upload the list and personal particulars of their candidates to our dedicated portal. We have trained party Liaison Officers and established a Help Desk for political parties. The portal opened on 4th March 2024 and will automatically shut down at 6pm on Saturday 24thMarch 2024.

“Two weeks later, only six parties have uploaded their nominations to the portal. We urge you to keep to our schedule of activities and avoid last minute rush that may undermine your ability to successfully nominate your candidates. There will be no extension of time beyond the deadline already published in the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the election, to enable us publish the personal particulars of candidates (Form EC9) on 31st March 2024 as required by law.

“For the Ondo State governorship election, party primaries begin in the next two weeks on 6th April and ends three weeks later on 27th April. So far, 16 out of 19 political parties have indicated interest in participating in the election. I urge political parties to adhere strictly to your proposed dates and modes of primaries. Frequent changes as we witnessed recently during the Edo primaries are not only disruptive but costly.

“The Commission cannot mobilise, demobilise and remobilise our officials for the monitoring of party primaries at the convenience of political parties. Parties should stick to their proposed dates and modes of primaries for certainty and optimal deployment of resources.”