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Anambra CJ inaugurates 7-man panel to investigate Obi, deputy

Posted by From GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka on 2006/10/31 | Views: 636 |

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Anambra CJ inaugurates 7-man panel to investigate Obi, deputy

The stage is now set for the trial of Governor Peter Obi and his Deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba, for allegations of gross-misconduct leveled against them by the State House of Assembly as the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Chuka Jideofor Okoli, Monday inaugurated a seven-man Investigation Panel for the purpose.

•Panel invites Obi, deputy, CP, 6 others today
•House of 10 sits, asks IG to arrest Balonwu, Ikwuka

The stage is now set for the trial of Governor Peter Obi and his Deputy, Dame Virgy Etiaba, for allegations of gross-misconduct leveled against them by the State House of Assembly as the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Chuka Jideofor Okoli, Monday inaugurated a seven-man Investigation Panel for the purpose.

The Panel is made up of Messrs Chinedu J. Oranuba as the chairman, Ifeanyi Udenze, Ijenma Okwu (Mrs), Uchenna Irene Okonkwo (Mrs), Chimezie Mbaonu, Rev. Cannon Brown Ofoeme and Emma Chuka Ifeadike, while Ralph Okey Onunkwo would serve as the Secretary.

Speaking after administering the oath of office on the members individually, Justice Okoli described the function he performed as part of the learning process of the nation’s democracy, adding that it would continue until it is developed.

He said, "It is part of the learning process of our democracy and we will continue to work until we develop it. Seven gentlemen with integrity will now look into these allegations and if they find them not proven, they will put an end to it, if they find it proven; they will look into the constitution to find out what are the necessary consequences.

"The office of the Chief Judge is merely to appoint them and then administer them this oath to see that what they do will be done faithfully and impartially. The constitution will grow if these processes can be allowed to continue, so that we will know that it is this constitution which is the grand norm that governs all of us, and so there is nothing peculiar about or nothing particular about it.
"They are not to find anybody guilty if he is not, and I do hope that by their oath of office, they will discharge it faithfully and impartially."

Okoli also said that with the inauguration, his job in the matter is ended as the Panel would have no recourse to him but would at the end of their sitting submit their report to the House of Assembly.
Addressing a press briefing shortly after the inauguration, chairman of the Panel, Mr Oranuba, assured the people of the state of their resolve to conduct the investigations transparently.

He said, "We are here to assure you all that in the interest of our dear state, we, the members of this panel, are unanimously resolute in our desire to ensure that these investigations are conducted in the most transparent and open-minded manner so as to ensure that all the issues raised are adequately addressed.
"The Hon. Chief Judge of Anambra State, in accordance with S. 188 of the Constitution, has constituted this panel of 7 highly reputable citizens of this state. We are neither politicians nor civil servants but core professionals in various fields of endeavour who have decided to heed this clarion call to rescue our dear state from imminent danger.

"We therefore solicit your kind support and especially that of you gentlemen of the press to kindly refrain from making undue inflammatory statements capable of truncating this on-going investigation.
"I must caution at this point that this moment calls for sober reflection and not one for undue sentiments and propaganda. We are here to examine these allegations critically vis-à-vis any defense or explanations to be given by their Excellencies or their representatives.

"In this wise, we wish to use this medium, amongst others, to kindly invite the following to attend the sitting of this panel tomorrow, Tuesday 31/10/2006 at 10a.m with all relevant documents relating to the allegations: His Excellency, The Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi; Her Excellency, The Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Dame Virginia Etiaba; The Commissioner of Police, Anambra State; The Clerk of the House of Assembly, Anambra State; The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing, Anambra State; The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Anambra State; Mr. Paul Enidom (Paul B. Nigeria Limited); The Chairman, Tenders Board, Anambra State; The Accountant-General, Anambra State.
"Please be assured that we are not an extension of the governor’s office or State Assembly or that of the Chief Judge. We are a creation of the constitution, the law of the land. We have a constitutional duty to perform and by the grace of God and with your support, we will do it".

Earlier, while the Chief Judge was administering the oath of office on the Panel members, the former chairman of Onitsha branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Obele Chuka Obele, interrupted the proceeding by raising an objection to the setting up of the Panel, stating that the House did not meet two-third majority to pass their resolution for the Panel.

He was, however, stopped by the Chief Judge who said he was neither in court nor in the panel sitting where such objection could be raised, and the following altercations ensued:

Obele: "Your Lordship will know that on the 25th day of this month, the House of Assembly had only 15 members present when they made the call on Your Lordship to convene this panel .
Okoli: Now will you stop.
Obele: Thought you gave me the permission to speak
Okoli: I have not given you any order to speak; my duty is to administer an oath on the panel.
Obele: The oath you are administering is being done unlawfully and unconstitutionally. As a lawyer called to the bar, I have a duty to call Your Lordship’s attention on the provisions of the constitution that are being violated.
Okoli: I will ask the security men to take you out if you don’t stop.
Obele: My Lordship, that will be going against the decorum. My Lord, I have sought your permission to be speaking and heard on this objection.
Okoli: This is not a court. You can make your objection before the panel. I would have done this in my office if not for the number of journalists.
Obele: It is important that I be heard fully.
Okoli: No! You will not be heard because it affects… Now police take his man out!
While the police pushed Obele out, he shouted, "My Lord, I am an officer of the bar, this will lead to a breakdown of law and order. They are man-handling me because of your order. I have a duty to protect the constitution".

Reacting to the inauguration, the Chairman of Onitsha Bar, and one of the leading Counsel of Governor Obi during the more than two years legal battle to regain his mandate, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), regretted that the Chief Judge refused to assign the suits they filed to stop him from setting up the panel, but said he wished the members would live up to the level of proven integrity the Chief Judge said they have.
He said, "According to the Chief Judge, they are people of proven integrity and they are, and I urge Nigerians to find out what they are made of and if it can be justified by their actions. I believe Obele Chuks has a right to raise the objection and certain issues.

More so for the reason that the Chief Judge has kept himself incommunicado and processes were filed which ought to have been assigned by him. The processes were not assigned and these are some of the issues which were properly taken in the process, and got to the attention of Chief Judge. If the suit has been assigned the way they ought to, these legal issues would have been taken up before a duly constituted court and not before the Chief Judge in an administrative capacity. It is regrettable that that suit never saw the light of the day."

Meanwhile, the Hon. Ben Chuks Nwosu-led House of 10 sat at the Conference Hall of the Government House, Awka where they moved four motions, including asking the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Sunday Ehindero, to arrest the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Mike Balonwu, and the Clerk, Dr. Aloysius Ikwuka, for impersonating as Speaker and Clerk of the House respectively.
They also called on the National Assembly to call the "erring legislators" and the State Chief Judge to retrace their steps in the impeachment move which, they said, is a violation of the constitution of Nigeria, just as they urged the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to sanction the Balownu-led legislators for "brazen act of indiscipline" despite the submissions of the National Executive Council of the party over their move to impeach the governor.

They also recalled one of the suspended members, Mr. Nelson Achikwu, who was suspended because of his role in the foiled attempt to unseat the former Governor, Chris Ngige, on July 10, 2003.

As at press time, police have taken over all strategic points and flash points in the capital city of Awka, as news of the presence of some miscreants operating in about seven buses around the town spread.
Daily Sun cited one of the buses impounded by police at Aroma Junction, but could not confirm if any arrest was made as calls to the police command were not responded to.
Meanwhile, Governor Obi and his deputy, Etiaba, have submtted their defence to the 11 -point allegation of gross misconduct to the probe panel.

Their different defence and attached documents were submitted to the panel shortly after its inauguration yesterday Daily Sun gathered that the document were those already published by the government.

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