By Samuel Oyadongha
YENAGOA â€”THE impeachment moves onÂ Â Bayelsa State Deputy Governor, Peremobowei Ebebi, yesterday, entered the third stage with the State Chief Judge, Justice Kate Abiri,Â instituting a seven-man panel to investigate the allegations against him.
Though the constitution of the seven-man panel was shrouded in secrecy, Vanguard learnt that it was set up last week, a day before the deputy governor instituted the legal action challenging the impeachment proceedings.
The probe panel which is headed by D.C Dewingwe, SAN; has R.N Tapre, Reverend T.Y. Emmanuel, Mrs. Lovinna Gboluseri; Barr. Ukari Oduma, Mrs. Flora Folorunsho and Mr. J.J. Wuham-West as members.
It was learnt at the office of the state Chief Registrar, Mr. Iniekenimi Uzaka, that the panel was inaugurated on 9 June, a day after the assembly passed a resolution directing the Chief Judge to set up a probe panel to investigate the allegations listed against the deputy governor.
A source at the Chief Registrarâ€™s office told Vanguard that the secrecy surrounding the activities of the panel was for security reason saying â€œthe action of the Judiciary is not to expose the members to threat and intimidation.â€
The State Chief Registrar told Vanguard that though he could not confirm the identity of the members of the panel the committee was working and would soon issue a notice of summon to the Deputy Governor on the charges against him.
However, reacting to the report on the setting-up of the probe panel, Counsel to the state Deputy Governor, Kemeasuode Wodu, said he was not aware of the setting up of the panel but stressed that he would be surprised if they empanelled it.
Wodu said: â€œEven the court had said that all must stay action on the matter. It is unbelievable that the panel might have been set up before the Friday that the court directive came. We will be considering legal options in view of the pending suit.â€
Meantime, the House of Assembly, yesterday, said the embattled Deputy Governor, Mr Peremobowei Ebebi, cannot stop his impeachment by resorting to the court.
The Deputy Governor had claimed last week that he was yet to be served the notice of impeachment.
Consequently, he instituted legal action against the state House of Assembly challenging the impeachment proceeding against him.
Joined in the suit are the Speaker of the House, the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, the Clerk of the House, the attorney-general, chief judge of the state and the 17 members of the House that signed the impeachment notice against him.
Ebebi is praying the court for an order to set aside the June I notice of impeachment against him.
The deputy governor is also praying the court to set aside any appointment or constitution of a panel of seven members by the chief judge to investigate the purported allegations of gross misconduct against him as well as an order of perpetual injunction restraining the chief judge from setting up a panel of seven persons to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct against him.
Also included in the deputy governorâ€™s prayer is an order restraining the House of Assembly from receiving any report from any panel that might have been constituted based on the allegations of gross misconduct.
But the Chairman, House Committee on Information, Mr. Konbowei Benson, said there was no going back on the impeachment despite the pending suit before a Yenagoa High Court.
He said the House was not concerned about the suit because it did not matter whether the Chief Judge was joined or not, adding that the suit would not in any way affect the impeachment proceedings because the House of Assembly would follow due process as stated in Section 188 of the Constitution.
Benson said: â€œEbebi has been impeaching people and he knows the process. He has enough time to defend himself before the panel. He cannot forestall the impeachment whether he joins the woman (chief judge) or not in the suit.â€
The House Committee chairman on Information urged the deputy governor to contest the impeachment if he felt it was not properly carried out.
The Bayelsa State Chief Registrar, Ineikinimi Uzaka, yesterday, confirmed the appointment of a seven-member panel by the Chief Judge to investigate allegations of gross misconduct levelled against the deputy governor Uzaka said in a statement that the appointment was based on the letter dated June 8, 2010 addressed to the Chief Judge by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Werinipre Seibarugu titled â€œRequest to appoint a panel of seven persons to investigate the allegations of gross misconduct contained in the notice of impeachment against Peremobowei Ebebi, deputy governor of Bayelsa State.â€
The Chief Registrar who said the appointment of the panel on June 9, 2010 was in compliance with section 188 (5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria added that â€œthe inaugural sitting of the investigative panel was held today (yesterday).â€