Interpreting Justice In Ekiti State

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Interpreting Justice In Ekiti State: The Law And The People 

 

By

 

E-11
 
 

 

October 25, 2006

 

 

The recent impeachment of Mr. Ayo Fayose as Governor of Ekiti State and his Deputy, Mrs. Abiodun Olujimi has elicited a lot of emotive and varied comments from across the nation.  While democracy guarantees the right to hold and disseminate opinion, many of those whose views have been widely reported in the media did not seem to have dispassionately and objectively looked at all the issues involved.  A lot is being said about the constitutionality or otherwise of the process and the resulting actions.  Regrettably, very little consideration seems to have been given to the interest and welfare of the people of Ekiti State who in the final analysis are the beneficiaries of whatever good, or victims of whatever ill results from the action.  
 

However, it has become necessary to appraise the whole process and review the opinions expressed especially by influential sections of the society whose comments are usually respected.  Ultimately, whatever views are expressed must give due consideration to the need of the people for security, welfare and good governance which in the case of Ekiti was flagrantly abused and distorted.  
 

Law and Justice 
 

Without going into too much technicalities, lawyers will readily proclaim that the law exists both in letter and in spirit.  While the letters provide a uniform framework and guidance for those who interpret and apply the law, the spirit is the bedrock of the justice that derives from the interpretation and application of the law, especially in its qualitative context.  It will therefore be reasonable to expect that a judicial officer interpreting the law will give adequate consideration to both the letters and spirit of the law.  After all, while emphasizing this point, it was the late eminent lawyer, Chief Rotimi Williams who once offered the illuminating opinion that a judgement may not be enforceable, and in fact becomes inherently unenforceable if it is devoid of justice.  
 

The foregoing raises the first poser on the Ekiti circumstance.  Where the principal officer responsible for the interpretation of the law, in this case, the former Chief Judge of the State, Justice Kayode Bamishile, decides to willfully and callously subvert the spirit of the law, where is the place for justice?  
 

Act One: 
 

Following a notice of impeachment, Section 188 (5) of the constitution requires that the Chief Judge of the State "shall at the request of the Speaker of the House of Assembly appoint a Panel of seven persons who in his opinion are of unquestionable integrity, not being members of any public service, legislative house or political party, to investigate the allegation as provided in this section." 
 

The provision puts a great deal of trust on the integrity of the Chief Judge and assumes that, in deference to his calling and oath, he would uphold both the letter and the spirit of this provision.  It is thus reasonable to assume that it was for this reason that the framers of the constitution did not explicitly provide any avenue for remedy in the event a Chief Judge chooses to subvert either or both the letters and spirit of the law thus perverting justice.  It is equally reasonable albeit regrettable to hold such Chief Judge that willfully treads this path of desecration of his sacred oath responsible for whatever mud is subsequently splashed on the immaculate silk linen of the judiciary.  
 

Any Real Options for the House of Assembly? 
 

There have been arguments to the effect that the House of Assembly ought to have still gone ahead to appear before the Bamishile Panel and express its objection to the Panel on the ground of questionable integrity of its members.  If we apply strictly the letters of the law, the Chief Judge would be under no obligation whatsoever to accede to the prayers of the House since the constitution clearly makes the judgement on integrity the sole discretional prerogative of the Chief Judge.  The risk for the House of course is in the provision of Section 188 (8), which states, "Where the Panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter."  Thus no matter the protestation from the House of Assembly, the impeachment process terminates and the defense, in this case Ayo Fayose and his Deputy, triumphs with a simple report from the Panel indicating that the allegation has not been proved.  The House cannot go to court to seek redress as Section 188 (10) clearly states, "No proceedings or determination of the Panel or of the House of Assembly or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court."  We need to bear in mind that the Panel need not contain any legal personnel and can therefore write their report in simple non-legal English!  
 

Some say the House could have sought the assistance of the National Judicial Council to resolve this problem.  Here the House would be seeking disciplinary action against the erring Chief Judge that subverts the spirit of the law, and also a reversal of his choice of Panel.  They will be looking forward to taking full advantage of some of the provisions contained in the Third Schedule Part I (I) of the constitution. Whatever relief may come their way, it still requires implementation in accordance with Section 292 (1) (a) (ii).  As Mr. President correctly stated in his emergency proclamation, the House is merely a "consenting authority" to an action to be initiated by the Governor.  It is not likely a Governor under the threat of impeachment and who has succeeded in forging a preemptive alliance with the Chief Judge to subvert the impeachment process would ever initiate such a move.  No reasonable person can be expected to undertake any act that would be injurious to his own cause unless possibly if such an action is guaranteed to help prevent a greater or worse injury.  The outcome remains the same even if the National Judicial Council on its own decides to intervene within the seven days the Bamishile Panel had to sit and come up with a decision. Even where the House felt it could save the Ekiti judiciary the mess it now found itself by inviting Bamisile to supply it the CVs of those he appointed Bamisile pointedly wrote that he would not do so.  
 

The Logjam Comic Side Show 
 

The Olujimi show clearly manifested a duplicitous attitude of the Federal Government to the whole process, especially one that clearly revealed a hidden agenda. First she appeared before the Panel set up by Justice Aladejana (Aladejana Panel), which indisputably signifies her recognition of the Panel, and therefore a readiness to abide by its decision, which has constitutionally, has no room for appeal. Many legal experts expressed the view that her appearance should have served as mitigation for whatever might have been her shortcomings and should therefore have been left off the hook in some kind of compromise deal.  First this cannot be fundamentally correct, as by the same reasoning, if Fayose had appeared, he should have been left off the hook. Any reasonable person will notice the inherent fallacy in this argument.  There are also significant ethical and moral issues that would have constituted eternal stain on Ekiti people if Olujimi had been freed from impeachment apart from the questions it would have raised about the competence of EFCC.  The important issue to note is that it is the House of Assembly that has the sole prerogative, constitutionally, to determine what constitutes "gross misconduct" in this instance.  Section 188 (11) states: ". or a misconduct of such a nature as amounts in the opinion in the House of Assembly to gross misconduct".  We hope the contradictions in the constitution are becoming apparent!  
 

Olujimi was able to challenge the House of Assembly because she was encouraged to do so by the Federal Government and some elements in PDP who found a rich honey pot in Equity. It worthy of note that prior to the impeachment Olujimi had literally been rescued from Fayose's grip and bundled to Abuja to see Mr. President. When it was convenient for Mr. President he released her to the streets of Ado Equity to lay claim to the seat of the governor. The wish to have an emergency rule declared in Ekiti had been demonstrated earlier. The panel set up by Justice Aladejana was sworn in on a Thursday. On Friday morning the panel promptly commenced its sitting with the officials of EFCC and others appearing before it as witnesses. They were to continue their sittings following day Saturday when the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero issued a curious order from Abuja that the Panel's security be withdrawn. Meanwhile Fayose had imported 18 busloads of thugs from Ibadan the night before and both the police authority and SSS were aware of this. Panel members were terrified on learning of the withdrawal of their security. Frantic appeals were made to the DG, SSS and the local director to safe the seven gentlemen and ladies from the terror about to be unleashed after similar appeals to the local police commissioner, Ms Ivy Okoronkwo has been rejected. The SSS eventually provided security and the Panel members were moved to the House of Assembly, venue of the sitting. Terrified the panel sat for only 20 minutes and rounded off its proceedings. The SSS operatives herded them into a bus and moved them under tight security to Akure through the longer and unexpected Ilawe Igbara Odo route. Ten minutes after they departed the House two busloads of thugs bearing dangerous weapons such as guns, machetes, petrol and acid stormed the house and doused the place with petrol. When they realized the Panel members were no longer sitting in the house, they snatched the windows and destroyed whatever they could. Had the thugs met Panel members in the House, we would have been telling another story today. On hindsight, we believe this was the first attempt at contriving the excuses for an emergency. It was when this failed they dusted up Olujimi to proceed to Ekiti and pronounce herself governor while they also got Fayose to call Channel Television and tell the world he was still governor. Olujimi was provided the critical infrastructure necessary to sustain her challenge, security.  Ekiti people clearly read through the duplicity of the Federal Government and top members of the PDP and refused to challenge her in the expected manner that would have led to violence.  Question is: why didn't EFCC which recognized the Aladejana Panel on account of their appearance before the Panel pick her up for follow up with trial once she was impeached?  
 

It is good to be the State that would produce the first female Governor in Nigeria and Ekiti people would ordinarily have been proud of it.  But such an honour of historical importance would have been better bestowed on and through a woman whose moral integrity is without blemish, at least in reality and in perception. In this case, there was a strong perception of her that raised questions about her moral uprightness.  These rumours may or may not be true, but they nevertheless exist and should not be ignored just like that.  
 

The Bamishile Panel 
 

Let us assume for argument's sake that the Bamishile Panel did not have any problems but use the same arguments as those now berating the Aladejana Panel's constitutionality.  The "Prosecution", in this case the House of Assembly failed to show up. The Panel had "within three months" to investigate and report their findings. The Panel concluded it's sitting and issued its report within 48 hours of inauguration! Why didn't they wait for the maximum period of three months if indeed there was no ulterior motive or hidden agenda? Besides, on what rules and procedures did they base their sittings given that Section 188 (7) (a) clearly stipulates that the Panel "shall have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly," This particular provision clearly puts the operation and authority of the Panel firmly under the House of Assembly, not the Chief Judge as some top judicial and legal personalities are now trying to suggest.  
 

It is a matter of common sense, natural justice and perhaps of law that if prosecution fails to present its case within the specified period, in this case three months, the best that ought to be done is to strike out the case, definitely not discharge and acquit, which is what the Panel did.  That the prosecution failed to show up cannot mean that the offence was not committed.  If the contrary is what our lawyers in NBA are saying, then from a layman's point of view, it is unfortunate.  Clearly, in any system where emphasis is on justice and not necessarily on mere technicalities, strike out cannot and should not equate to discharge and acquittal.  
 

The Aladejana Panel 
 

True this Panel raises some constitutional issues that require adjudication by the courts.  The problem is that our lawyers have not told us how this could have been achieved without conflicting with the provision of Section 188 (10) of the constitution, which unequivocally ousted the jurisdiction of the courts on any matter relating to the impeachment exercise.  It would seem more that the entire impeachment process was meant to be a legislative, not judicial affair.  
 

The Federal Government on account of its Agency's full representation and presentation before the Panel vicariously recognized the Panel. The same is true of the Executive arm of Government in Ekiti Sate with the legal representation of the Deputy Governor. Although not necessarily sacrosanct, recognition by stakeholders and other interested parties has always been the basis for the legitimacy of all successful coup d'etats and this is widely accepted as a reality in Nigeria.  Otherwise we ask: why are the coupists of yester years still honoured and continue to participate actively in some organs of our democratic governance?  If a Panel is recognized and is seeing by the real stakeholders, Ekiti people, to have dispensed justice, whose ox is gored?  
 

Given all that happened during and immediately after the Panel's sitting and the House of Assembly impeachment of the Governor and Deputy, it is clear that the revisionist step of the Federal Government was on the recalcitrant stand of the House to honour the Presidential wish of having Olujimi as the Governor. Ekiti people did not want Olujimi as much as they did not want Fayose.  Apart from the reasons stated above, leaving Olujimi to become Governor would have meant a triumph of opportunism and Executive conspiracy against the people.  We recall Mrs. Olujimi's often-repeated pledge to be the "last man standing" with Fayose! From some of her utterances, it was clear she never wanted to part company in any way with Fayose. What for Ekiti people would have been the difference between six and half dozen? We also recall Fayose's boast prior to the impeachment that if by any act of omission or commission Olujimi is made to replace him as governor, he will go out the loudly some ugly acts which they both had perpetrated. This, we were made to believe blackmailed Olujimi into going to the rooftop to announce her loyalty to Fayose.  
 

The Hypocrisy 
 

Much as we respect Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), we are amazed by his utterances and actions, which culminated in solidarity, visit to the suspended Chief Judge, Justice Bamishile in Ado Ekiti.  Up till now, Mr. Agbakoba has not passed any comment beyond "cronyism" on the protest of the House of Assembly published on page 10 of The Nation on Thursday, October 12, 2006. Then while Mr. Agbakoba and his NBA had asked the Attorney General of the Federation to file a litmus test case in the Supreme Court in their correct affirmation of their confidence in the judiciary, they failed to recognize the greater damage done to the judiciary by President Obasanjo's violation of the doctrine of separation of powers through his hurried, ill-informed, ill-advised proclamation of emergency rule in Ekiti State. Since cases were already in court and the Attorney General's would have been added if the AGF had acceded to the request of NBA, why would NBA now hurriedly support the abridgement of the role of the judiciary who has all the powers to deal with any and all kinds of constitutional crisis?  To say the least, it is very disappointing that a SAN led NBA would be the first to betray a lack of confidence in the judiciary to resolve a constitutional crisis.  We can assure Mr. Agbakoba and his NBA that one day sooner than later, President Obasanjo would play another card that would make Mr. Agbakoba and NBA wish they had never supported this emergency proclamation. May we ask why Agbakoba do not consider it necessary to talk to the leadership of the local NBA before making his hurried solidarity visit to Justice Bamisile? We also decry his temperamental action of snatching the cassette recorder from a reporter of The Guardian, when he was asked why he did not consider it necessary to first see the officials of the local NBA before rushing to see Bamisile in Ado Ekiti.  
 

What is clear to Ekiti people is that in their trying moments, the Agbakoba led NBA did not stand by them.  They wanted justice as expressed in the spirit of the law.  Mr. Agbakoba and company opted for miscarriage and/or denial of justice as was made possible by some loopholes in the letters of the law.  It is hoped that Mr. Agbakoba was not motivated by his subtle war against the EFCC, which he dutifully inherited from his predecessor in office.  
 

We think there is no need going over the role of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) whose statement compounded the problems for the judiciary.  The CJN is certainly the official whose voice should have been the very last to be heard in a matter of this nature, if at all it became necessary. We believe all agree he acted in error and it is not mitigated by the claim that his comments were contained in a supposedly private albeit official correspondence with Justice Aladejana.  
 

The Emergency Proclamation 
 

Mr. President accused the Ekiti House of usurping judicial powers.  He is guilty of the same offence.  First there were at least two cases in court. In any event, it was a constitutional, not political crisis and the judiciary could best have resolved this.  Since the judiciary has already been drawn into the fray both by the pending cases and the comments of the AGF and CJN, why didn't the judiciary opt for full performance of its constitutional duties?  
 

President Obasanjo, indeed any President in Nigeria should never be allowed to assume judicial powers under whatever guise if our democracy is to survive in consonance with our dream.  This is why the State of Emergency proclamation should be rejected at least if law and constitutionalism are the sole guide of the impeachment process.  
 

There is a greater danger to contemplate.  Emergency was proclaimed on Ekiti State where during the impeachment process, there was no violence; no life was lost; no property damaged. This is unlike the situation in Plateau and Anambra States.  Niger Delta continues to be a troubled region.  Add to all these a simulated religious crisis in the North of the Kaduna dimension that welcomed President Obasanjo in February 2000, then we have a perfect case for emergency rule in at least ten states with Retired Generals as Sole Administrators.  This would provide a perfect alibi for postponing elections while tenure at the Federal level is extended!  We need to be very careful and watchful.  
 

PDP and the Ekiti Lawmakers 
 

There is however an unintended benefit from this emergency rule, a benefit that might in fact have saved Ekiti State as much embarrassment as Fayose's rule.  It goes right to the heart and soul of PDP and the moral fabrics of both the party and the nation.  It touches on the quality of people we have as our leaders.  
 

Throughout the impeachment saga, the managers of the process, acting on behalf of a strong, broad-based, pan-Ekiti coalition had three key objectives.  The first was to rid the state of the embarrassing, traumatic menace of Fayose/Olujimi administration.  The second was to convene a pan-Ekiti summit that would produce a blueprint for the strategic development of Ekiti State in the short and long term.  The summit was also expected to produce a blueprint for moral and behavioural engagement in politics within the state.  This particular blueprint would have set the minimum standard for ascendancy to public office in Ekiti State in a manner that truly reflects the cherished values of the state, part of which President Obasanjo elaborated on in his broadcast.  The goal behind this was to ensure that the likes of Fayose never get to public office again in the Fountain of Knowledge where every family can boast of at east one University/Polytechnic (HND) graduate.  
 

The third objective was to ensure that the state has a vibrant, multiparty democracy anchored on the core values of the state in a peaceful atmosphere free of intrigues and all the vices currently besetting politics in Nigeria.  In fulfilling this objective, the managers recognized and were indeed committed to a program to rebuild, restructure and reposition PDP which to all intents and purposes had been destroyed by Fayose and company.  The new Action Congress no doubt has a strong foothold in Ekiti and is well positioned.  PDP requires a lot of assistance to give it any chance of competing in any election in the state.  Rebuilding and repositioning the party, PDP, was in consonance with the objective of institutionalizing a vibrant multiparty democracy in Ekiti State.  There was no way Olujimi could have achieved this with the monstrous legacy of Fayose hanging on her.  She had to give way.  
 

An unstated but very firm objective was to get rid of the nuisance of Chief Olabode George who over time was succeeding in positioning himself as the infamous, undeserved godfather of Ekiti politics as if Ekiti State is all that is Southwest.  Everyone knew that Chief Bode George was one of the major problems of Ekiti State and thus the plan to chase him away so that the state can be at peace and have a real chance of development.  Chief Bode George was largely seen as the ultimate threat to the core values of industry, honesty, integrity, sound ethics and morality that Ekiti people are known for.  With Fayose and certainly Olujimi in control, there was no way this could be achieved.  Ekiti people could live with a Senator Yinka Omilani; unfortunately he had been sidelined from his position as the Vice Chairman of PDP, Southwest by Chief Bode George who in real terms refused to yield that position to him.  
 

Thus there was an agreement that representatives of the various groups that put the impeachment together and funded the entire process would meet after the impeachments and Aderemi's assumption of office to fashion out a broad-based, pan-Ekiti transitional government that would pursue the objectives stated above, under the leadership of the eminent, highly respected true leader of Ekiti State, Chief Afe Babalola.  Hitherto, the Chief had given President Obasanjo a solemn pledge to help rebuild PDP in Ekiti State once the impeachments were over and Aderemi takes over as Acting Governor.  At stake was the age-long friendship and mutual affection between Chief Afe Babalola and President Obasanjo.  Now on the night Chief Aderemi was sworn in as the Acting Governor, the Ekiti Lawmakers and some leaders of PDP in the state abandoned this coalition and traveled to Akure to hold what they called a PDP caucus meeting.  It was at this meeting that the Lawmakers showed their hands and succeeded in taking Aderemi hostage to their greed and avarice.  They wanted executive political appointments without regard to the sacred trust of their constituents that made them Lawmakers.  
 

First the erstwhile majority leader was appointed Secretary to the State Government.  No element of the coalition save the Lawmakers was consulted.  Next, six lawmakers were to be appointed Commissioners while two others would have appointed to head the Local Government Service Commission and the State's Universal Primary Education Board.  This would have led to bye- elections in ten constituencies in addition to Aderemi's constituency.  The coalition had given President Obasanjo a written undertaken that should Aderemi become the Acting Governor, then no other candidate would contest against him in the constitutionally mandatory bye election within three months thus saving INEC the headaches of a bye election so close to the April general elections.  Suddenly we were confronted with the spectre of ten bye-elections making nonsense of the undertaking earlier given President Obasanjo.  It was this betrayal that and others discovered immediately after the impeachments that made Ekiti people accept the proclamation of emergency without any challenge.  For them, justice has been partly served with both Fayose and Olujimi no longer in control of their affairs.  It is also expected that under General Olurin, Chief Bode George's parasitic influence on Ekiti State would cease.  Ultimate justice would be achieved when Fayose is prosecuted for his crimes against humanity while he held forte as the Governor of the State.  
 

It is a matter of deep regret and a major embarrassment to honourable people of Ekiti State that some of these lawmakers are already shamelessly begging opinion leaders to help them lobby General Olurin to pay them the anti-impeachment bribe of N2 million that was dubiously tagged constituency allowance that was denied them by Fayose!  These people have no morality whatsoever and they are a disgrace to Ekiti people and those who out of patriotism and a genuine desire for good governance in Ekiti State committed their time, energy and resources to the impeachment exercise.  
 

Matters Arising 
 

What happened in Ekiti State was the interplay of various forces, values and vices law, constitutionalism, morality, ethics and greed.  There was also a good deal of deception and insincerity, certainly a lot of duplicity.  It is a major credit to Ekiti people that with all the contradictions at play, they managed to achieve the desired, well-deserved justice without firing a shot!  Fayose and Olujimi are gone and that should remain so.  
 

But after all said and done, should the emergency have been declared?  Maybe, may be not.  The loser is the judiciary that was denied its constitutional role of resolving constitutional crisis as they arise.  It cannot be a correct approach to always resolve constitutional and legal issues by applying a political cum military solution.  Having precipitated this crisis, what should be the fate of Justice Bamishile, the man who willfully and callously perverted justice by a reckless breach of the spirit of the law?  
 

Importantly what is the status of Fayose and Olujimi?  If the Bamishile Panel is held as legal, then their immunity subsists and cannot be arrested and prosecuted until May 29, 2007.  If it is accepted that Justice Bamishile, the one time Coordinator of Ekiti Judiciary, a product of illegality, which Mr. Agbakoba did not notice as part of the history of Ekiti judiciary, erred in law, then Aladejana's Panel would have to be accepted as valid and Fayose and Olujimi would stand impeached.  Of course this will also challenge the basis of the proclamation of emergency.  There is still a case for a judicial review of the whole process.  
 

Recommendations 
 

Our recommendations after considering all the issues and with all the emphasis on justice for Ekiti people are: 
 

  1. That the National Assembly should affirm the proclamation of emergency by the President as a fait accompli especially considering the poor quality and greed of some elements among the Lawmakers and the embarrassment they would have constituted to Ekiti people had their selfish plan prevailed.  It is also the culmination of transgressions against the law and this should be brought to a close, at least for now.

 
 

  1. General Olurin should forge a credible pan-Ekiti administration and convene the desired Stakeholders Summit to truly reconcile Ekiti people and develop the blue print for strategic development of the State as well as the Benchmark for political engagement and participation in the State without prejudice to the provisions of the constitution.

 
 

  1. As justice delayed is justice denied, the Federal authorities should find whatever means is available to bring Ayo Fayose and his cohorts to book.  This is the ultimate justice Ekiti people demand and not a parade of legal technicalities that pays no regard to justice.

 
 

  1. A way should be found to submit the entire impeachment process to competent judicial review to clear the air and set the correct precedence.

 
 

  1. In restructuring and repositioning PDP, all existing structures of the party in the state should be dissolved and new ones established in a way that ensures true reconciliation and no influence from Chief Bode George who is also the real problem of the party in the state.

 
 

Conclusion 
 

Ekiti people deserves good governance and they have a real chance of ensuring that only credible people, those who have imbibed and internalized the noble values of Ekiti in their attitude and conduct, are elected in 2007.  In others words, the politics of 2007 should be about personalities, not about parties, which in any case are not ideologically differentiated in real terms.

 

Released by e-11 Group

October 25, 2006

 

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