The Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, announced a temporary halt to proceedings in the case brought forward by Lucky Aiyedatiwa, the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, against the state House of Assembly and several others.
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During the most recent hearing on Monday, the Plaintiff’s legal counsel conveyed to the court that the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abdullahi Ganduje, had established a Reconciliation Committee on October 6, 2023, to mediate in the dispute involving some of the parties implicated in the lawsuit.
The counsel argued that continuing the court proceedings could undermine the ongoing reconciliation efforts, as the parties might be reluctant to compromise on their entrenched positions. Furthermore, the Plaintiff’s legal team informed the court that the House of Assembly had submitted a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) on October 3, 2023, containing derogatory and uncomplimentary remarks about the presiding judge.
According to them, this petition signalled the House of Assembly’s lack of confidence in the judge, making it contradictory for the Assembly to simultaneously seek legal action before the same judge. Therefore, they suggested it prudent to await the NJC’s response to the petition.
They requested that the petition be distributed to all parties involved so they could respond to it while also condemning the Assembly’s reckless statements and actions.
In response, counsel representing the state governor and the state’s Chief Judge clarified that they were not part of the reconciliation efforts. They preferred the court to proceed with the case and first determine the issue of jurisdiction. On the other hand, the House of Assembly’s legal counsel confirmed the petition’s existence but disagreed with its contents, as it seemed to undermine the court’s integrity.
The lawyer stated that he had advised the Assembly to withdraw the petition, and a withdrawal letter accompanied by a sworn affidavit was submitted to the NJC on October 6, 2023. He offered a profuse apology to the court on behalf of his clients and assured the court that they would demonstrate the utmost respect for its authority.
In response, the Plaintiff’s counsel pointed out that since the petition was acknowledged by the NJC, the court should instruct that both the petition and the withdrawal letter be provided to the court and all parties involved.
He emphasized that it was a misconception to assert that the court lacked jurisdiction over the case, as the Constitution authorized only the Federal High Court to exercise jurisdiction in matters involving declarations against federal government agencies, such as the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services (DSS).
He stressed that parties wishing to challenge the court’s jurisdiction should adhere to due process by filing the requisite application. When such an application is served to the Plaintiff, they will respond appropriately.
Justice Emeka Nwite, the presiding judge, concluded by advising the lawyers and the Nigerian Bar Association to safeguard the integrity of the legal profession and resist temptations from politicians to disparage the judiciary. He urged dissatisfied parties to utilize established channels for seeking remedies in case of disagreements.
The judge subsequently adjourned the case to October 16, 2023, for a ruling on the submissions presented and to address any pending applications if necessary. It should be noted that the court had previously issued injunctions restraining the Ondo Assembly, the Chief Judge of Ondo State, Ondo Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, and other defendants from taking any actions that might lead to Aiyedatiwa’s impeachment.
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