By James Sowole
The move to remove the Deputy Governor of Ondo State has suffered a setback as the Chief Judge of Ondo State, Justice Olanrewaju Akeredolu, has turned down the request of Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Bamidele Oleyelogun to constitute an investigative panel to look into the allegation of gross misconduct levelled against the number two citizen.
Fourteen out of the 26 members of the House had on Tuesday signed an impeachment notice ordered to be served on the deputy governor by the Clerk of the House, Mr. Bode Adeyelu.
The impeachment notice was signed by the 14 lawmakers who among others, accused Ajayi of gross misconduct including defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on June 21, 2020.
Immediately the impeachment notice was signed, another nine members of the House dissociated themselves from the impeachment process which they said did not follow due process.
Sequel to the resolution of the House, the Speaker on Thursday wrote a letter to the Chief Judge to set up a seven-man panel to investigate the Notice of Allegation of Gross Misconduct by members of the House of Assembly against the state Deputy Governor, Agboola Ajayi.
The Speaker’s letter reads in parts: “By the Resolution of the House today pursuant to Section 188 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended it was resolved that the allegations be investigated forthwith.
“It is in line with the above that request that you set up the 7-man panel to conduct the investigation as resolved by the Honourable House and the Panel, shall soon as possible, report back to the House.”
But the Chief Judge, in a 4-page reply to the Speaker’s request, drew the attention of the Speaker to the Section 188 of the nation’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) which states how a governor or deputy governor can be removed from office.
The Section 188(2) reads that “whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than two-third of the members of the House of Assembly.
And Section 188(2b) states that the governor or deputy governor “ is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified, the Speaker of the House of Assembly shall within seven days of the receipt of the notice, cause a copy of the notice to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the House of Assembly, and shall cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office (governor/deputy governor) to be served on each member of the House of Assembly.”
The Chief Judge, however, stated that the implication of the sections of the constitution cited was that the deputy governor, Agboola Ajayi, must be served with impeachment notice signed by not less than two-third of the members of the House of Assembly of the state.
The notice to be served on him must state that he is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office and must specify the particulars of the gross misconduct and that he must be allowed to respond to the allegations.
“Within the 14 days of receipt of the Notice by the Honourable Speaker, whether or not the deputy governor responds, the House of Assembly shall pass a resolution supported by not less than two-third of majority of all the members of the House of Assembly that the allegation be investigated.
Therefore, the Chief Judge stated that the members of the state House of Assembly had not completed all the constitutional process that would inform setting up of a seven-man panel to investigate the allegation levelled against the deputy governor.
She also made reference to a letter she received from Kayode Olagoke, SAN, “which letter tells me clearly that the matter of impeachment of Hon. Alfred Agboola Ajayi, deputy governor of Ondo State is sub judice.”