Ondo Assembly impeaches Deputy Governor Ali Olanusi
Olanusi was impeached by 22 out of the 25 lawmakers who constituted the Eighth Assembly over a seven-count allegation of gross misconduct levelled against him last week at the floor of the House.
Meanwhile, condemnations have greeted the impeachment as groups, including Southwest zone of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Southwest Youth Progressive Movement (SYPM) and the Congress for Ondo Southern Nationalities (CROSN) have faulted the removal.
Retired Chief Magistrate Olatunji Adeniyan who chaired the panel of investigation set up by the state Chief Judge, Justice Olasehinde Kumuyi had, on Thursday, submitted the report of the panel, which sat for the first time last Friday .
The sitting ended in controversial circumstances, as counsel to the defendant, Dr Benson Enikuomehin had stormed out of the proceedings.
“Having found that all the seven allegations established against Alhaji Ali Olanusi, the Deputy Governor of Ondo State and placing reliance on the meaning of gross misconduct as defined in Section 188 (11) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as mended, we hereby find that the allegation of gross misconduct has been proved against Alhaji Olanusi the holder of office of the Deputy Governor of Ondo State of Nigeria, “ the report signed by the seven -man panel read.
The Majority Leader, Ifedayo Akinsoyinu moved the motion for the impeachment and it was seconded by the Deputy Majority Leader, Oyebo Aladetan .
Subsequently, the Speaker, Jumoke Akindele ordered that all government property in care of the former Deputy Governor should be submitted to the Office of the Permanent Secretary.
There was a mild drama of sorts last Friday at Ondo State High Court Conference Hall, Akure, where the panel of investigation against the embattled Deputy Governor, was sitting.
Journalists were barred from the venue from which counsel to the defendant, Dr. Enikuomehin was to storm out in anger.
According to the invitation sent to him by the Chairman of the committee, Chief Magistrate Olatunji Adeniyan (rtd), Olanusi was summoned to the sitting by 10am yesterday at the High Court Complex.
Enikuomehin who said he got a call from his client to make an appearance before the panel in protest, argued that his counsel had not been served a notice, and that the document containing the allegations leveled against the former deputy governor were not attached to the notice of summon posted at the defendant’s house.
Enikuomehin urged the panel to disregard the allegations because they have no locus standi and bearing in law and that the panel could not continue with the impeachment process.
He quoted Section 36 (1), (2) and (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, saying the determination of the panel to proceed with the matter negated the principle of fair hearing to the parties involved as earlier promised by the chairman of the panel.
He also informed the panel that Olanusi traveled out of the country for his yearly medical check-up and pleaded that the sitting be suspended till his arrival in June this year.
But counsel to the state House of Assembly, Mr. Akinlaja Dayo prayed the panel to continue with the matter arguing that the deputy governor had been duly served as specified in law.
He also denied the that Olanusi traveled out of the country.
“Mr. Chairman, it is my view and belief that the defendant had been duly served by the clerk of the State House of Assembly. The fact before me indicated that the deputy governor is in Nigeria.
“The letter written to the governor by the defendant about his medical trip abroad only requested for three-week leave which lapsed on the 17th of this month,” Akinlaja said.
The plaintif ’s counsel later presented a copy of the letter to the panel which he said was erroneously dated by the defendant, and the chairman of the panel, Adeniyan, after much deliberation, admitted the document as “Exhibit C1.”
Objection raised by the counsel to the defendant over the admissibility of the document was turned down by the chairman.
The defendant’s counsel noted that the said letter emanated from the Deputy Governor arguing that the letter written by the defendant was properly written and signed, but argued, however, that his client had applied for medical check up overseas on 17 April rather than the 27 April stated by the admitted exhibit.
“My Chairman, you cannot shave a man’s head in his absence.
Your readiness to continue with this case when my client has not been served is a deliberate plot to deprive him of his fundamental human right.
“I will therefore have no option than to leave the venue of this panel honourably rather than sitting down here and watch this panel celebrate injustice,” Enikuomehin, asserted as he stormed out of the panel in protest last Friday.
While speaking with journalists, Enikuomehin protested against the attempt to prevent him and his team from attending the sitting.
He said he suspected foul play.
“On Thursday 23rd, the panel was set up and , today, the panel began to sit. I am sure before the end of the day, the panel will reel out its result. In the panel, I saw the Attorney General, so, it is the state affair.”
He noted that the law allows an impeachment process to take up to three months .
“There is an order restraining the Governor from using the instrumentality of the state in removing the Deputy Governor from office.
That injunction was granted and had been served on the governor of the state.”
He stated that counsel to the Assembly only purportedly served him the notice at the panel, which he rejected and established the fact that he was not the Deputy Governor, who alone is permitted by law to be the recipient of such notice.
He noted that the panel admitted his client received the notice as claimed by the lawmakers through circumstantial evidence.
“They said from the circumstance, the Deputy Governor wrote a letter to the Governor,” asking if writing a letter amounts to receiving a document.
On appearing before the panel in protest, Enikuomehin explained : “I am coming to complain because of an issue and that when that issue is addressed, this will determine whether you will go further.”
He complained that his client has not been served, and that negligence in law gave him no basis for argument in the panel.
“What papers , documents, or instructions do I have ? My client has not been served, so, it is a condition precedent which the court has laid down.
I am surprised that the panel is going this way.
“It is the natural thing in Nigeria that when a panel of impeachment is set up, they already have an answer. I won’t be surprised that before the end of today, that an announcement would be made that the panel has concluded its reportsand the Assembly has passed a resolution whether in the night or morning that the Deputy Governor has been removed.”
Enikuomehin affirmed: “We are not going to obey this kangaroo kind of action; we will resist it, if this is done. When the Deputy Governor comes back and he is served, we are willing to receive it and come to rebut whatever allegation they make against him. But to shave his head in absence, we will fight it, resist it and not recognize it.”
The panel of investigation thereafter tried the Deputy Governor, who initially left the PDP as its state chairman to form Labour Party (LP) together with Governor Olusegun Mimiko in 2006, on each allegation as submitted by the State House of Assembly, ranging from gross misconduct, absenteeism, malfeasance and misappropriation , amongst others.
Counsel for the Assembly told journalists that the lawmakers had done the needful by ensuring service of the notice of allegations against the Deputy Governor even as he refuted the claims by Olanusi’s counsel . Adelaja noted that, “It was just not proper or correct for the learned counsel to the defendant to have claimed, although on the information supposedly given to him by somebody that the Deputy Governor has not been served with the requisite notice.”
He mentioned also that the attention of the panel was again drawn to the fact that the Deputy Governor has a benefit of a second service by virtue of the fact that the notice of allegation was sent alongside the summons that was issued by the panel.
According to him, “It is interesting and instructive to note, that the Deputy Governor did not claim ignorance of the fact that this panel was to commence proceedings today, and that naturally would explain why he has to retain the services of a learned counsel to represent him.
“But the strange thing is that, after the panel in its wisdom, has found that there was adequate service, the necessary service of notice of allegation has been served against the Deputy Governor, the panel ruled that there was no basis for the Deputy Governor to have said that he was not served.”
Adelaja submitted that the Deputy Governor was only trying to evade his obligations under the constitution in respect of the allegations of gross misconduct leveled against him.
He stated further that there was no sincerity in the claims that service has not been effected on Olanusi, whose counsel basically claimed that his client was not in the country and could not be served.
The Assembly Counsel said he was able to convince the panel that Olanusi had written to Governor Mimiko earlier that he would travel for medical check up on the Monday 27, April; “the deduction at the inference of that is, the Deputy Governor is within the country and only trying to shirk away from meeting his responsibilities,” Adelaja said.
He expressed unbelief in the reaction of his learned colleague, “who again we gave another copy of another copy of the notice of allegation possibly to assist if he would want to take advantage of fair hearing that has been given to the Deputy Governor.
“But strange enough the learned counsel collected the notice of allegation but rather than avail himself of the opportunity of using that to cross-examine his witnesses, learned counsel shied away and abandoned the forum” Adelaja said, lamenting that neither Olanusi nor his counsel took the opportunity.
Consequently, the Assembly was adjourned for an hour after which it resumed to receive a letter from Dr Olusegun Mimiko nominating Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo before the House for appointment to replace the former Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi.