The Ondo State House of Assembly has said that it will return to the drawing board to perfect its plans to remove the state Deputy Governor, Mr. Agboola Ajayi, from office.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Information, Hon Gbenga Omole, told THISDAY yesterday that the legislature had noted the observations of the Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu, who last week declined the Assembly's request to him to set up a panel to look into allegations of misconduct against Ajayi.
Ajayi, however, hailed the decision of Justice Akeredolu, saying it has "rekindled the confidence and hope of the people in the judiciary as a bulwark against tyranny and totalitarianism."
Reacting to Justice Akeredolu's refusal to set up a probe panel, Omole said the lawmakers had noted "some technical errors" in their letter to the chief judge and would address the lapses.
According to him, the Assembly "would do the needful and dispatch another letter appropriately."
Omole, who did not say when further action would be taken, however, added that the decision to remove the deputy governor was in line with the responsibilities of the Assembly.
The Speaker, Hon. Bamidele Oleyelogun, in a letter dated July 7, 2020, had asked the chief judge to constitute an investigative panel to look into the allegations of gross misconduct levelled against the deputy governor.
Fourteen out of the 26 members of the House had signed the notice of removal and directed that it should be served on the deputy governor by the Clerk of the House, Mr. Bode Adeyelu.
The 14 lawmakers, among others, accused Ajayi of gross misconduct, including defection from the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on June 21, 2020.
But immediately the notice was signed, another nine members of the House dissociated themselves from the removal process, which they said did not follow due process.
Sequel to the resolution of the House, the speaker wrote a letter to the chief judge to set up a seven-man panel to investigate the allegations against the deputy governor.
But Justice Akeredolu, in a four-page reply to the speaker, drew his attention to Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which states how a governor or deputy governor can be removed from the office.
Section 188(2) reads: "Whenever a notice of any allegation in writing signed by not less than one-third of the members of the House of Assembly.
"(b) stating that the holder of such office is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office, detailed particulars of which shall be specified, the Speaker of the House of Assembly shall, within seven days of the receipt of the notice, cause a copy of the notice to be served on the holder of the office and on each member of the House of Assembly, and shall also, cause any statement made in reply to the allegation by the holder of the office, to be served on each member of the House of Assembly.
"The notice to be served on him must state that he is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office and must specify the particulars of the gross misconduct and that he must be allowed to respond to the allegations.
"Within the 14 days of receipt of the Notice by the Honourable Speaker, whether or not the deputy governor responds, the House of Assembly shall pass a resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the majority of all the members of the House of Assembly that the allegation be investigated."
But the chief judge said the lawmakers had not completed all the constitutional process that would inform setting up of a seven-man panel to investigate the allegations against the deputy governor.
She also made reference to a letter she received from Kayode Olatoke (SAN), "which letter tells me clearly that the matter of impeachment of Hon. Alfred Agboola Ajayi, deputy governor of Ondo State is sub- judice."
Ajayi Hails CJ's Decline of Lawmakers' Request
Meanwhile, Ajayi yesterday hailed the refusal of Justice Akeredolu to set up a panel to investigate him, saying her decision has "rekindled the confidence and the hope of the people in the judiciary as a bulwark against tyranny and totalitarianism."
Ajayi, in a statement entitled: "Epochal Pronouncements of Ondo State Chief Judge on the Illegal Removal Move: There is Hope," and signed by his Media Adviser, Mr. Allen Sowore, commended the courage of Justice Akeredolu for standing by the rule of law
"His Lordship leaves no one in doubt about the need to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and due process in a modern democracy," he said, adding: "The decision is a triumph for the rule of law against brigandage and anarchy."
He said with the decision, the judiciary of Ondo State had demonstrated its independence and made a clear statement about its commitment to secure and sustain the principles and lofty ideals of constitutional democracy.
"We are reminded of the triumph of the human spirit across the age against totalitarianism and encouraged to bring to life the progressive provisions of our constitution that are antidotes to satanic demagoguery and maximum leadership," he said.
Sowore said the deputy governor was humbled by the epochal decision and he was reinvigorated to continue to stand for the good of the people as the arrowhead of the move to return the government to where it rightly belongs - the people of Ondo State.
He said: "It's in this light that we demand the immediate resignation or removal of the inept and mediocre speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. David Oleyelogun, whose incompetence has brought the exalted parliament into disrepute.
"This will go a long way to preserve our democratic gains, restore the dignity of the legislature and the principle of separation of power."
Ese-Odo APC Asks Deputy Governor to Resign
Meanwhile, leaders of APC in Ese-Odo Local Government Area of Ondo State have called on the deputy governor to resign having dumped the party that brought him to power.
Ese-Odo is the home local government of the deputy governor.
At an enlarged party meeting held at Igbekebo, the local government headquarters, the leaders flayed Ajayi for staying put in office after castigating the party that brought him into office.
The meeting was presided over by the APC House of Assembly Deputy State Chairman, Hon. Agabra Atili, and attended by notable leaders including Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. Donald Ojogo; and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Mr. Jimi Kuforiji, among others.
The meeting expelled the House of Assembly member representing Ese-Odo Constituency, Hon. Success Torhukerijor, for anti-party activities and misrepresentation of the APC.
Both motions were moved by Hon. Richard Omosehin and seconded jointly by Ojogo and Hon. Corporal Nanaopiri.