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The withdrawal of Shaibu’s lawyer in protest as Assembly Clerk testifies before panel

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During the first session of the impeachment panel assembled by the Chief Judge of Edo State, Justice Daniel Okungbowa, to investigate allegations against Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, there was a moment of tension.

The formation of the panel came after the State House of Assembly served an impeachment notice on Shaibu.

NewsNow informed that the panel launched its session at the Judges Conference Hall in Benin City on Wednesday.

The panel is headed by retired Justice S.A. Omonua as chairman, alongside other members including Professor Theresa Akpoghome, Oghogho Ayodele Oviasu, Surveyor Andrew Oliha, Idris Abdulkareen, President Aigbokhian, and Mariam Erakhoba Ilavbare.

The Deputy Governor was represented by his counsel, Prof Oladoyin Awoyale, SAN, while Joe Ohiafi, the Deputy Clerk, Legal, stood in for the State House of Assembly.

At the start of the session, Awoyale brought up an Abuja Federal High Court ruling that instructed the panel to justify why an interlocutory injunction to maintain the status quo regarding the impeachment proceedings, pending the suit’s resolution, should not be granted to the plaintiff (Philip Shaibu).

Awoyale mentioned that the court issued this order on March 28, 2024, with the case adjourned to April 8, 2024.

In accordance with the Federal High Court order, he noted that his client would not participate in the panel’s proceedings until the court decides otherwise.

“I respectfully submit that continuing with these proceedings would be premature and futile,” he stated.

He urged the panel to await the court’s decision.

Objecting to this, Joe Ohiafi, counsel for the State House of Assembly, referred to Section 188 Subsection 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.

Ohiafi emphasized that the panel is unique and its processes cannot be obstructed, citing that per the constitution’s section, no court can challenge the proceedings or judgments of a panel set up by the House of Assembly.

Following a brief adjournment, the panel dismissed the objection from the Deputy Governor’s counsel and upheld the submission from the Assembly’s counsel.

Justice Omonua, the panel’s chairman, determined that the concerns raised by the Deputy Governor’s counsel were related to his client’s fundamental rights, not a reason to halt the panel’s proceedings.

Following this ruling, Shaibu’s counsel withdrew from participation in the session, citing non-compliance with a court order by the panel.

At this point, the counsel for the House of Assembly unexpectedly became a witness.

In his testimony, the Deputy Clerk submitted a Vanguard newspaper publication from March 12, 2024, serving as a replacement impeachment notice to the Deputy Governor by the State House of Assembly.

He also presented a lawsuit filed by the Deputy Governor in 2023 against the Inspector General of Police and four others over his alleged exclusion from State Executive Council meetings and governmental activities.

These documents were admitted by the panel as evidence and marked as exhibits.

The Deputy Clerk assured the panel that the original copies of the State Executive Council meeting attendance sheet would be provided at the next session.

When questioned about knowing about events at the Government House as a House of Assembly staff, he stated that there is a daily routine of updates from the Government House.

He alleged that the Deputy Governor’s lawsuit against the Inspector General of Police and others, where official state secrets were disclosed, violated the Oath of Office and the Constitution of Nigeria.

He also informed the panel that the complainant had no plans to call any additional witnesses.

Justice Omonua adjourned the session to Thursday, April 4, 2024, allowing Shaibu to respond to the allegations against him.

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