16th August, 2013
A Port Harcourt High Court Friday ruled that Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi lacks the power to set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the failed impeachment fracas at the Rivers House of Assembly on 9 July and therefore should stop sitting forthwith.
The court agreed with an anti-Amaechi lawmaker, Victor Ihunwo, a member of the state House of Assembly representing Port Harcourt Constituency 111, who filed a suit challenging the Rivers State governor’s powers to set up the panel.
The court ruled that the panel was illegally constituted.
Ihunwo had argued that the governor was a party to the crisis and so cannot be a judge in his own court.
The ruling by Justice Lamenkara Iyayi tallies with Ihunwo’s position that Governor Amaechi was an interested party and whatever would be the outcome of the inquiry would not be fair or seen to be fair to all the parties concerned.
The court also restrained the Rivers State Government, its agents and privies from accepting or acting on any recommendations from the panel of inquiry.
The plaintiff had argued that the issues that the Judicial Inquiry was looking into were already pending at the regular court.
The ruling threw the court into wild jubilation by the anti-Amaechi supporters at the court premises this morning.
Olushola Dare, the Counsel to the Rivers State Government, said after the ruling that his client would abide by the court’s decision but would get back to his client to find out if the judgement should be challenged in the Appeal Court.
Observers of Rivers politics, however, expressed reservations that the ruling of the court could further stoke the political crisis in the state because at the inauguration of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, Governor Amaechi had charged the panel chaired by Justice Biobele Georgewill, to find out the root cause of the fracas and how to prevent a similar incident from occurring in future.
Yesterday, the Judicial Commission of Inquiry summoned the Minister of State for Education, Chief Ezebunwo Nyesom Wike and the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Mbu Joseph Mbu, to appear before it and respond to allegations levelled against them.
Also summoned to appear before the commission are the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the state, Felix Amaechi Obuah, Evans Bipi, Victor Ihunwo, Michael Okechukwu Chinda, Martins Amaewhule, and the former chairman of Emohua Local Government Area of the state, Chukwuemeka Woke.
Members of the commission include Mrs. Oluchi Iwuoha Chimezie of Television Continental (TVC), the General Manager, Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), the General Manager, 92.7 Niger Info FM and the Port Harcourt Area Commander, the Nigeria Police.
Chairman of the Commission, Georgewill, had in a statement said the Commission had received three memoranda from speaker of the State House of Assembly, Otelemaba Dan-Amachree, House leader, Chidi Lloyd, and another one, jointly signed by 25 lawmakers of the Assembly.
In the statement titled ‘Judicial Commission of Inquiry Insists on fair hearing to all the parties in the crisis that rocked the Rivers State House of Assembly’, the judge stated that it has become imperative to make the notice public since those mentioned had refused to appear before the commission.
—Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt