By Chidi Nkwopara & Chinonso Alozie
OWERRI—EMBATTLED Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, has dragged the State Chief Judge, Justice Paschal Nnadi, the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly, Mr Acho Ihim and Imo State House of Assembly to court, urging it to quash the planned impeachment initiated by the lawmakers.
Madumere had in the suit, HOW/531/2018, sought a declaration that the Speaker and the House of Assembly, having not personally served the purported notice of gross misconduct dated July 10, 2018, or a notice of any allegation made by the legislature on him, “cannot be said to have commenced or initiated the process of the removal of the plaintiff from office as Deputy Governor of Imo State, in accordance with the provisions of Section 188(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended”.
.Part of the eight-point relief sought by Madumere read: “An order restraining the first defendant (the Chief Judge) from appointing a panel of seven persons to investigate the allegation(s) against the plaintiff, upon the purported request of the second defendant (Speaker), acting on the unconstitutional resolution or motion of the third defendant (House of Assembly) made on July 11, 2018.”
The court was also urged to decide “whether the purported undated report of the assembly’s six-man ad hoc committee, which held that a prima facie case has been made out against the plaintiff is a nullity, having been made without locus standi and in breach of the plaintiff’s right to fair hearing.”
Madumere also prayed the court to decide whether the Chief Judge can validly appoint a seven-man panel to investigate the assembly’s “notice of gross misconduct,” dated July 10, 2018, when the speaker’s request to that effect “is unconstitutional, null and void, having not complied with the provisions of Section 188(1), (2), (3) and (4) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.”
As at the time of going to press, no date for the commencement of hearing has been fixed.
Protest rocks Owerri
Meantime, vehicular and business activities were yesterday shut down as over 3,000 people peacefully processed through the major streets of Owerri municipality to register their anger over the planned impeachment of the Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere.
The obviously angry protesters took over the streets of Owerri as early as 6am yesterday, chanting all manner of songs in protest.
They levelled unprintable accusations against Governor Rochas Okorocha, including masterminding what they perceived as “kangaroo charges” against his deputy.
They accused the lawmakers of being “mere rubber stamp in the hands of Governor Okorocha, who controls the House as his personal estate, without reference to the feelings and aspirations of the citizenry.”
Some of the placards carried by the protesters read: “Okorocha leave Madumere alone”, “Okorocha must you foist your son-in-law on Imo people?”, “We are in Democracy not in familiocracy”, “We say no to Okorocha’s third term agenda”, “APC will not accept imposition of family candidate”, “NWC rise up before we lose Imo to PDP”, “We appeal to President Buhari to intervene in Imo Situation”.
Addressing newsmen, one of the leaders, Mr. Chidiebere Nworgu, a lawyer, lamented that “the state is sliding to a one man business, where an individual now treats Imolites with levity.”
He called on the clergy and the elites to speak out against this injustice against Prince Madumere and other Imolites.
“Where has Madumere derailed? This is a man who has been discharging his duties conscientiously, coupled with his infectious humility. Is it not the same Okorocha who told us that his Deputy does not give him stress, which made him pronounce in various fora that Prince Madumere is his son in whom he is well pleased? We have not ceased to wonder what has changed between then and now,” Nworgu said.
The lawyer attributed the no love lost between the governor and his deputy to Madumere’s insistence in taking his destiny in his hand by making himself available to contest the governorship of the state, against Okorocha’s resolve to foist his son-in-law on the citizenry.
Contributing, another protester, Nze Onuoha said: “the deputy governor is eminently qualified to govern the state with his education, cognate experience and exposure in corporate world, governance and impeccable strength of character.”
Imo Assembly serves notice on deputy governor
Also yesterday, the Imo State House of Assembly served the Deputy Governor, Mr. Eze Madumere, a notice of gross misconduct.
The assembly had resolved in its last sitting, through a motion raised by Mr. Kennedy Ibe that the deputy governor, Madumere be served notice of gross misconduct through substituted means.
Vanguard gathered yesterday in Owerri that the notice dated 10th of July, 2018 and signed by the Speaker of the House, Mr Acho Ihim, was said to have been pasted at the office of the deputy governor as well as published in some newspapers.
It stated: “Service of notice of gross misconduct: pursuant to section 188 (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution.
“I Honourable Acho Ihim, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Imo State of Nigeria do hereby serve upon you, Prince Eze Madumere, Deputy Governor of Imo State of Nigeria, the attached notice of gross misconduct, duly issued under the hand of not less than one third of the members of Imo state House of Assembly.”
Lawyer writes Imo Chief Judge
However, Imo State Chief Judge, Justice Paschal Nnadi, has been urged to respect the pendency of a suit, FCT/HC/BW/CV/92/2018, as well as a subsisting order to maintain the status quo, in respect of the planned impeachment of Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.
An Abuja-based legal practitioner, Mr. John Mary Jideobi, who is counsel to the plaintiff in the matter between Mr. Stanley Okwara versus the Speaker, Imo State House of Assembly and six others, wrote the letter, pleading that the res should be maintained.
Jideobi’s letter recalled that the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, presided over by Justice A.O Musa, on July 5, 2018, duly heard the ex-parte motion and among other reliefs, ordered all the parties in the suit which includes the Speaker, Chief Acho Ihim, the Chief Judge, Justice Paschal Nnadi, the Attorney General and four others, to maintain the status quo until the matter is determined.
Reproducing the order of court, the lawyer stated: “The parties shall be served with the processes in this suit and the orders of this court and the law remains that same ties their hands as if an order has been made in law, as this court has the inherent powers to set aside any step or steps taken after the service of these processes on the defendants, to foist a situation of helplessness on this court.”
Imo lawmakers dare court
But members of Imo State House of Assembly surprisingly reconvened again in what they called “emergency plenary session,” ignored the order of court and pendency of suits challenging the planned impeachment of Madumere and took far reaching decisions yesterday.
Kicking off the day’s business, the member for Owerri Municipal constituency, who doubles as the House Majority Leader, Mr. Lugard Osuji, cited Section 188(7) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, which spells out the processes to be followed in carrying out impeachment.
After a few contributions by members, the Speaker, Mr. Acho Ihim, instructed the Clerk of the House to make publications in the local and national newspapers, regarding the alleged “sins” of the embattled deputy governor.