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 Chicken Impeachment: Ex-Enugu Deputy Gov. Onyebuchi Drags Lawmakers To Court

IGNATIUS OKPARA, Enugu

Impeached Deputy Governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sunday Onyebuchi, has dragged the state House of Assembly before an Enugu State High Court asking it to declare his removal from office as illegal, null and void.

Impeached Deputy Governor, Sunday Onyebuchi

Impeached Deputy Governor, Sunday Onyebuchi

Onyebuchi through his five-man team of lawyers, led by Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN, in the Suit Number E/373/2014 filed on September 30, 2014, is asking the court to determine whether the State Assembly could initiate removal or impeachment proceedings against him for the purposes of removing him from office when he had not committed a gross misconduct in the performance of his functions as the state Deputy Governor.

Other counsel appearing for the ex- Enugu number two man, in the matter are Chief Ogochukwu Onyekwuluje, Chief Chris Aghanwa, Osinachi Nwoye, and C.K. Ogbonnaya Esq.

Eugene Odoh, Speaker of the State Assembly, the 23 lawmakers, and the new Deputy Governor, Pastor Ifeanyi Nwoye were listed as defendants.

In the originating summons, Onyebuchi contends that having regard to the clear provisions of Section 188(2) and Section 188 (11) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federation (as amended) and the momentous decision of the Apex Court of the land in INAKOJU AND ORS VS ADELEKE AND ORS (2007) 4 NWLR ( Pt. 1025) 423, his purported impeachment was illegal, null and void.

Questions for determination in the suit are: “Whether the Enugu State House of Assembly could initiate removal or impeachment proceedings against Onyebuchi, the Deputy Governor of Enugu State for the purposes of removing him from office when he had not committed a gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, amongst others.

“Whether the Enugu State House of Assembly lawfully exercised its powers when it voted and purportedly removed His Excellency Sunday Onyebuchi, the Deputy Governor of Enugu State acting on the recommendation of a 7 man panel of investigation which purportedly investigated His Excellency on acts which do not constitute Gross Misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State.”

Onyebuchi, therefore, claimed against the defendants jointly and severally a declaration that the purported Notice of Allegation of misconduct served on him as a preparatory step to his removal by the defendants was unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever, having regard to the provisions of Section 188 (1)-(9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

He also asked the court to declare that the motion passed by the defendants on July 22, 2014 calling for the investigation of the allegation of misconduct against him “is in contravention of Section 188 (1)-(9) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and to that extent, the said motion is unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”

He further sought a declaration that members of the state House of Assembly could only lawfully invoke their powers of removal or impeachment against him under Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federation where he (the plaintiff) has committed acts of Gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office.

The reliefs sought by Sunday Onyebuchi include: “A declaration that Section 188 of the Constitution is not a weapon available to the Enugu State House of Assembly to subject or police the plaintiff for any wrong doing not committed in the performance of the functions of his office as Deputy Governor.

“A declaration that the Allegations of Gross misconduct as contained in the Notice of Allegations of Gross Misconduct dated 22nd July 2014 and served on the Plaintiff by the 1st -24th Defendants do not constitute gross misconduct as envisaged by the provisions of Section 188 of the Constitution to warrant the 1st – 24th Defendants to invoke their powers under S.188.

“A declaration that the 1st – 24th Defendants violated their sacred legislative functions under the provisions of section 188 when they embarked on the removal or impeachment of the Deputy Governor from office when there was no legal or constitutional basis for such an exercise.

“A Declaration that the purported nomination and approval of the 25th Defendant as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State are illegal and unconstitutional as they violate section 191 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999.”

Onyebuchi therefore prayed the court to make an order setting aside and declare as void and unconstitutional the Notice containing the Allegations upon which he was purportedly investigated as well as an “order setting aside all the steps taken by the Defendants in relation to the issuance of Notice of allegation of misconduct, passage of motion to investigate same and the purported directive to the Honourable Chief Judge of Enugu State, the said steps having breached the provisions of Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

He also sought an order of the court re-instating him as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State, adding that “in the event of his tenure of office expiring before the determination of this case an order that the plaintiff is entitled to receive all his entitlements and benefits including his pension as deputy governor of Enugu State, having lawfully served out his tenure.”

Besides, Onyebuchi asked the court to set aside “the nomination of and approval by Enugu State House of Assembly of the 25th Defendant (Pastor Ifeanyi Nwoye) as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State”.

In a 16-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons deposed to by the ousted deputy governor, he told the court that he had since his election in 2007 discharged his lawful and constitutional duties diligently until July 24, 2014 when “from the blues and to my greatest bewilderment” allegations of gross misconduct were leveled against him for maintaining a poultry in his official residence.

He said that the notice of impeachment brought against him for which a 7-man panel was constituted by the State Chief Judge to investigate “did not contain allegations of gross misconduct against me in the discharge of the functions of my office as the Deputy Governor of Enugu State” insisting that he committed no offence whatsoever to warrant being removed from office.

“As the Deputy Governor of the State I am abreast with the provisions of the Constitution and the consequences of their violation and will therefore do nothing to violate them. I did not commit any gross misconduct in the discharge of the functions of my office or the Deputy Governor as alleged against me,” he averred.

Meanwhile, hearing on the motion for substituted service on the defendants filed by the plaintiff’s counsels, is expected to be heard this week before Justice Mrs. Ngozi Emehelu, to whom the case had been assigned.

 

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