28th March, 2013
The Imo state House of Assembly, in the eastern part of Nigeria, has impeached the deputy governor, Mr. Jude Agbaso.
Effectively, he has been removed from office. According to reports, a new deputy governor has been named. He is Prince Eze Madumere, the present chief of staff to the governor.
Twenty five of the 26 members of the house voted for the impeachment, hours after a judicial panel probing the allegation against him, dismissed Agbaso’s bid to stop the impeachment.
The Chairman of the Panel, Justice Godwin Ihekire, announced the rejection while ruling on the request on Thursday in Owerri, saying the request lacked merit and therefore the panel would continue with the investigation.
The judicial panel of inquiry was set up on March 23 by the Chief Judge of Imo State.
The panel is charged with the task of investigating the N458 million bribe allegedly given to the deputy governor by a construction company (J-Bros Ltd).
Agbaso, in a letter to the panel through his counsel, claimed that he was not served any summons on the matter.
He also drew the attention of the panel to two law suits he instituted at the Imo High Court on the “purported impeachment against me.”
“From the foregoing, it is clear that I am not only challenging the purported steps or actions leading to the constitution of your panel but also challenging the appointment/constitution of your panel by the Chief Judge of Imo State. Since we are in a constitutional democracy where the rule of law ought to be upheld, all activities and or proceedings of your panel ought to automatically terminate or be suspended as a mark of respect to the State High Court, before which the suits are pending.”
However, the counsel to the Imo Assembly, Mr Niyi Akintola (SAN), argued that the panel was not party to any suit in any court in Nigeria regarding the deputy governor.
Akintola described the letter as premature and urged the panel to proceed with the investigation.
He said that the deputy governor could not claim to be ignorant of the panel when he had instituted two suits urging the court to stop his impeachment process.
Akintola explained that the panel was constituted by law and that Section 101 and 102 of the Constitution permits State Houses to regulate its proceedings and that ignorance is no excuse in law.
“The letter holds no water. It is not binding on you (panel). You are not party to any suit in any court and have no need to adjourn because of the letter but to proceed with the investigation,” he said.
The impeachment was predicated on an allegation that the deputy governor collected a bribe of N458 million from a contractor in the state. Mr. Agbaso consistently denied the allegation and also claimed that the move was connected with the impending 2015 election.
Agbaso and Governor Rochas Okorocha were elected on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA in 2011.