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Ladoja wins round one

Posted by Punch on 2006/01/18 | Views: 1023 |

Ladoja wins round one


An Ibadan High Court on Wednesday upheld its ruling that Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja was still the governor of Oyo State, pending the determination of an application before it on January 30, 2006.

An Ibadan High Court on Wednesday upheld its ruling that Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja was still the governor of Oyo State, pending the determination of an application before it on January 30, 2006.

The decision of the court came amid the disruption of the plenary session of the House of Representatives over a motion on the crisis in Oyo State.

At the courtís session, Justice M. Bolaji-Yusuff, refused to set aside the courtís ruling on January 12, which declared the impeachment proceedings against Ladoja illegal.

Before the ruling on Wednesday, there were three applications at the court for determination.

The three applications were filed by the acting Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Afolabi Adeniran; the 18 lawmakers who purportedly removed the governor; and the three lawmakers loyal to Lodoja.

The acting CJ had, in his application, sought for an order setting aside the ruling of the court and the striking out of the suit on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate on the subject matter (impeachment) in view of Section 188(10) of the 1999 Constitution.

On their part, the 18 lawmakers urged the court to set aside its January 12 ruling, claiming that the order was a nullity having been given without jurisdiction.

But the three lawmakers Ė Hassan Ogundoke, Babatunde Olaniyan and Jacob Ojekunle Ė wanted the court to refer the January 12 ruling to the Court of Appeal for determination.

They said the Court of Appeal would be able to determine four issues arising from the ruling.

In her ruling on Wednesday, Justice Bolaji-Yusuff, turned down the applications from the acting CJ and the 18 lawmakers to set aside her ruling, which declared the impeachment proceedings illegal.

The judge said it was procedurally better to determine the application for a referral of the January 12 ruling to the Court of Appeal before deciding on the jurisdiction of the High Court.

She said, "It is my view and I so hold that before a court can determine whether a question involves jurisdiction or not, it must have heard both parties on an application for reference to the Court of Appeal and the question for reference must have been determined if the application succeeds.

"It is my further view that it is after this that the court will be able to know if there are other issues in the case apart from the constitutional question set for reference to the Court of Appeal if the application succeeds."

Bolaji-Yusuff added, "In the instant case, it is my view and I so hold that the application for reference to the Court of Appeal should

be heard first. If the application succeeds, the court will be able to ascertain what questions are to be referred.

"And if there is any issue(s) outstanding subject to the above condition, they will be determined before the reference to the Court of Appeal, if the appeals fails, the court will proceed with the application to set aside the ruling of the court delivered on January 12 2006."

Bolaji-Yusuff, granted the request of Mr. O. Ayanlaja (SAN), who appeared for the acting Chief Judge and the 18 members of the state House of Assembly, for the adjournment of the case.

She adjourned the case to January 30 for arguments on the application seeking transfer of the matter to the appellate court.

In applying for the adjournment, Ayanlaja said there was "no vacuum in the post of the Chief Executive of the state."

In an interview with journalists after the ruling, the lead counsel to the three lawmakers, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), said the legal battle was not because of the removal of Ladoja but for the sustenance of the rule of law.

The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association stated that the effort of the lawyers was to forestall a reoccurrence of the same trend of the alleged violation of the rule of law and the constitution.

Olanipekun said that the nationís leadership should cultivate the attitude of being guided by the law.

He said, "The fight, like we have said, is not for Ladoja. The other time, we said it was not for Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. It might be anybodyís turn. And if we donít fight for the rule of law in this country, we are goners. We must defend and espouse it. We must stand by it."

He said reference of the constitutional questions to the Court of Appeal would quicken the determination of the case.

He added, "If the constitutional issues are referred to the Court of Appeal, the court will take the issues once and for all, expeditiously. We want to avoid a situation where the case will last for long. The process is faster and the Court of Appeal will simply determine all the questions that will be raised and referred."

The SAN explained that the questions to be referred, include, the determination of the two thirds of the 32-member House; the position of the Acting Speaker; and the legality of the constitution of the panel by the ACJ, whose report gave birth to the removal of Ladoja.

He said the issues were "minute but so germane and fundamental to the determination of the case."

The President of the West African Bar Association, Mr. Femi Falana, held that he was sure that the appropriate agencies would comply with the ruling of the court by reinstating Ladoja to his post.

He said, "The Inspector General of Police is a senior lawyer and Iím very sure he is going to defer to the ruling of the court as well as the advice of the bar, particularly of the Body of Senior Advocates of Nigeria and the NBA."

The lead counsel to the defendants, Chief Lekan Latinwo, however, said that Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, who was inaugurated as the governor remained the chief executive of the state.

Latinwo, a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in the state, said that the only means by which Alao-Akala could be removed was through impeachment.

He argued that his position was informed by the earlier decision of an Ibadan High Court before the investigative panel submitted its report.

He said the High Court had ruled that the impeachment panel could not be stopped from functioning through court process.

Another counsel to the G18, Mr. Michael Lana, who handled the presentation of the allegations against Ladoja before the panel, said the inauguration of Akala as the governor of the state had not been challenged in court as at Wednesday.

In spite of the legal battle, Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State came alive once again on Wednesday following the suspension of a two-day strike called by the 12 industrial unions to protest the removal of Ladoja.

Commercial vehiclesí operators, under the aegis of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, who joined the sympathy strike also returned to work.

The usual hustle and bustle in Iwo Road, Gate, Challenge, Molete, Mokola and Beere area of the city returned on Wednesday.

Workers at the state secretariat, Office of the Governor and the House of Assembly, were equally in their offices.

Commercial activities also peaked on Wednesday as traders at Dugbe, Gate, and Alesinloye markets displayed their wares.

The tight security witnessed on the two days that the action lasted had also been relaxed, as police presence had now been restricted to the state secretariat, with fewer policemen on guard.

The police armoured personnel carrier stationed opposite the secretariat was however still in place.

In Abuja, however, the plenary session of the House of Representatives was on Wednesday disrupted when the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Austin Opara, referred the motion on the political crisis in Oyo State to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Justice against the wishes of some members.

About six security operatives and three officials from the office of the Sergeant at Arms were drafted to guard the mace against any attempt to seize it by the aggrieved lawmakers.

As soon as Opara, who presided over the session, read the first order of the day, involving a motion for the "Restoration of the Rule of Law and Observance of the Constitution in Oyo State," more than four members called him to order simultaneously.

The deputy speaker however insisted that it was wrong for a point of order to be raised when a motion has not been moved on the floor of the House.

He therefore called on Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, to move the motion, which was co-sponsored by 14 other lawmakers.

Based on this, Gbajabiamila, on behalf of the other lawmakers, told the House about the alleged violation of the Constitution in the removal of Ladoja.

He condemned the roles played by the stateís Acting Chief Judge as well as 18 members of the House of Assembly in the impeachment process.

He also reiterated the need to obey the rule of law and the Constitution for democratic sustenance.

He said, "Mr. Speaker, this House should resolve to call on all authorities and persons to obey the rule of law and therefore regard the ruling of the High Court of Oyo State declaring the impeachment of Ladoja null, void and of no effect.

"Let us request the Inspector-General of Police to ensure the obedience to the orders of the court and restore security aides of the governor and generally restore law and order in Oyo State."

The lawmaker further said that Ladoja alone be recognised as the governor of Oyo State.

He urged the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mohammed Uwais, to investigate the action of the Acting Chief Judge of Oyo State and sanction him accordingly.

Gbajabiamila had barely finished his presentation, when Mr. Depo Oyedokun shouted on top of his voice, "Point of order, point of order," and when leave was granted him, he referred Opara to Order number 9, Rule 1 and 5.

Oyedokun argued that since the matter was before the court, it would be subjudice to discuss it on the floor of the House.

When members who were in support of the motion asked him to sit down, he went into frenzy, shouting, "Mr. Speaker, this matter is before the court. This matter is before the court.

"We shall not discuss this matter on the floor of this House. It is against the rule of law," he said.

Efforts by the deputy speaker to restore order failed, as the House broke into two factions with each of the factions trying to get its point of view across.

During the confusion, Alhaji Bashir Nadabo, a member from Katsina State displayed the poster of President Olusegun Obasanjo with the letter, "X" drawn across it with the words, "No to Third Term Bid."

This incensed some lawmakers including, Mrs. Mercy Almona Isei, who made a swift move to take the poster from Nadabo, a situation that nearly degenerated into a fight.

Other members who exchanged hot words included Mr. Balla Ibn Nallah; Mr. Farouk Adamu; and Mr. Uche Nwagoacha. Both Mr. Cairo Ojougboh and Mr. Chuma Nzeribe persuaded the members to be calm.

When order was partially restored, Nallah, Mr. Cyril Maduagbum, Mr. Celestine Ughanze and Mr. Dati Baba Ahmed argued on the desirability or otherwise of the motion.

The deputy speaker finally dropped the gavel to commit the motion to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and Justice against the wishes of members who preferred it being discussed.

This led to another round of pandemonium that forced Opara to adjourn for an executive session.

The PUNCH, Thursday, January 19, 2006

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