The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has adjourned further proceedings in the case filed by the embattled Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa, till October 16, for a ruling on some applications to decide whether to proceed on the case.
The development came as a result of the application of Aiyedatiwa’s counsel, which was predicated on two grounds: to encourage the Reconciliation Committee set up by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, and to allow the Ondo State House of Assembly enough time to pursue its petition to the National Judicial Council against the judge.
The embattled deputy governor through his counsel at the resumed hearing of the matter on Monday, October 9, 2023, informed the court that the National Chairman of the APC, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, set up a Reconciliation Committee on October 6, 2023, to mediate the dispute between some of the parties to the suit.
The counsel maintained that the continuation of court proceedings will antagonise the settlement efforts, as the parties will not be willing to let go of their rigid positions.
He also informed the court that the House of Assembly wrote a petition to the National Judicial Council on October 3, 2023, making very disparaging and uncomplimentary comments against the presiding judge.
According to him, the effect of the petition to the NJC is that the House of Assembly has no confidence in the presiding judge.
However, he claimed that the same assembly cannot simultaneously argue any application before the same judge. Hence, it would be good to await the action of the NJC on the said petition.
The counsel also prayed that the petition should be served on all parties so that they could respond to it while deprecating the unguarded utterances and actions of the Assembly.
The counsel to the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu and the Chief Judge of Ondo State, in his response, informed the court that they were not parties to the settlement moves.
He stated that they would prefer the court to go ahead with the case and first determine the issue of its jurisdiction.
However, the counsel to the state House of Assembly, affirmed that a petition was written to the NJC but was different from the contents of the petition, as it seeks to undermine the integrity of the court.
He noted that he had advised the Assembly to withdraw the petition, and a letter of withdrawal accompanied by an affidavit was submitted to the NJC on October 6, 2023.
The counsel apologised to the court for the misconduct of his clients while giving an undertaking that his clients would forthwith show the utmost respect to the authority of the court.
Reacting to the development, Aiyedatiwa’s counsel informed the court that since there is an admission of the petition to the NJC, the court should direct that the petition and the letter of withdrawal be sent to the court and all the parties.
According to him, it is a misconception to state that the court has no jurisdiction over the case, as, under the Constitution, only the Federal High Court can exercise jurisdiction concerning declarations against agencies of the federal government, in this case, the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Security.
He however advised that parties who seek to challenge the jurisdiction of the Court should follow due process by filing the necessary applications.
He noted that when the plaintiff is served with such applications, he will respond to them appropriately.
After listening to the submissions by the counsels, Justice Emeka Nwite urged the lawyers and the Nigerian Bar Association to do their best to protect the sanctity of the legal profession and avoid temptations from politicians to disparage the judiciary.
He noted that if any party is dissatisfied with any court decision, they should follow the appropriate channels laid down for a remedy.
He however adjourned the case to October 16 for a ruling on the submissions made and to hear pending applications, if necessary.
The court had on September 26, 2023, made orders of injunction restraining the House of Assembly of in the State, the Chief, as well as the Governor of Ondo State, alongside other defendants in the case, from taking steps that will lead to the impeachment of the Deputy Governor.
The High Court made the order last, until the hearing of the Motion on Notice for Interlocutory Injunction, which is still pending before it.