By Chidi Nkwopara & Chinonso Alozie
OWERRI—AN Imo State High Court has stopped the swearing-in of the newly appointed Deputy Governor designate, Mr. Callistus Ekenze.
The Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Milletus Nlemadim, SAN, disclosed this yesterday when he tried to explain the absence of any High Court Judge to perform the swearing-in exercise scheduled for the Executive Council Chambers, Government House, Owerri.
Although the AG did not give the name of the Judge or the plaintiff, he however confirmed that “the court has stopped the swearing-in of new Imo Deputy Governor designate.”
Continuing, Nlemadim said: “The governor nominated Mr. Calistus Ekenze and that nomination was approved unanimously by the State House of Assembly. We came here today for the swearing-in but our attention has been drawn to an interim order, temporarily stopping the Chief Judge from performing this ceremony.
“We have quickly taken the necessary steps to vacate that order and that will be concluded in a very short time. We shall for now shift the swearing-in ceremony in obedience to the order of court.”
Prior to the briefing, speculations were rife that judges in the state were very angry with the state Governor, Rochas Okorocha and the lawmakers, over the way the administration had been flouting court orders.
I’ll respect court order—Okorocha
Governor Rochas Okorocha, yesterday said he would respect the court order stopping the swearing-in of the new deputy governor, Mr. Calistus Ekenze.
Okorocha’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr Sam Onwuemeodo said this in a release to newsmen in Owerri.
The release also said that the governor had called on his party members to remain law-abiding.
As captured by the release, “the scheduled swearing-in of the new Deputy-Governor of the State, Sir Calistus Ekenze, on Tuesday, July 31, 2018 by 9am, could not take place again following the directive by the State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha that the Interim Court Order restraining the Chief Judge of the State from carrying out the exercise be fully obeyed.
“The venue of the scheduled swearing-in, the Sam Mbakwe Exco Chamber was full to the brim by guests including senior government functionaries and APC leaders in the State when the governor’s directive came through the Attorney-General of the State, Barr. M.O. Nlemedim in respect of the court order.
“The governor had insisted that the interim order be obeyed not minding some issues raised by senior lawyers in the government against the order, insisting that his administration must continue to obey valid court orders and also served on the government or agents of the government.
“It should be recalled that the 19 members of the state House of Assembly had on Monday, July 30, 2018 impeached the former Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere following the submission last Friday, of the report of the panel that investigated the accusations against him.
“It should also be recalled that the Deputy-Governor had earlier got an order against the impeachment process, on July 5, 2018 by a State High Court, but the Order was vacated and described as a”nullity” by the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja presided over by Justice O.A Musa on July 16, 2018.
“The governor has urged all Imo people and all the parties in the matter to remain law-abiding and allow the law to take its course.”
Angry reactions trail impeachment
Meantime, angry reactions have continued trailing the purported impeachment of the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Prince Eze Madumere by lawmakers.
In his own reaction, the Deputy Governor’s counsel, Prince Ken Njemanze, SAN, said it was most regrettable that Imo State had been turned to a lawless state where rule of law had continuously been dragged to the mud with impunity.
“Whatever the lawmakers did is a charade. It is not binding in any way on the status quo. There are two pending suits and there is a valid order of court against such act.
“It must be stated clearly that the seven-man panel never invited the deputy governor to appear before it. They never advertised where they would sit. They never sat and they know about the pendency of the suits. One of the panelists was personally in court and witnessed the proceedings,” he said.
In his reaction, a former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, described the impeachment of the deputy governor, Eze Madumere, as “a reckless action under Rochas Okorocha’s administration.”
He spoke to Vanguard in Owerri, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Collince Ughalla, adding that the Okorocha’s regime does not have respect for the law.
Ohakim said: “It is a condemnable and reckless action. We want Imo people to note that the government of Okorocha is lawless.
“The impeachment of the deputy governor did not follow due process. This afternoon, we learnt there was a court order stopping the impeachment.”
A socio-cultural organisation, Olu Owerri, through its President General, Mr. Martin Opara and Secretary, Mr. Sylvester Nwogu insisted that the people of the state were happy with the performance of Madumere, adding that they would stand by the impeached Deputy governor till the end of the battle.
“The Owerri zone socio-cultural organisation, Olu Owerri has condemned, in strongest terms, the purported illegal impeachment of the Imo State Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, MFR, by the compromised Imo House of Assembly led by Acho Ihim against valid court orders, insisting that the exercise is an action in futility which will not stand legal scrutiny.
“We call on all lovers of democracy, rule of law and the judiciary in Nigeria to save the nation’s nascent democracy by halting acts of impunity and undemocratic tendencies, such as the illegal impeachment of a man whose only sin is standing for equity and justice,” the group said in a statement.