C'R CHIEF JUDGE, LG VICE CHAIRMAN AT WAR OVER IMPEACHMENT PLOT
The impeachment plot at the Boki Local Government Area of Cross River Sate has assumed a different dimension as the state Chief Judge (CJ), Dorothy Eyamba Idem, and Vice Chairman of the council, Ojonde Krees Ojong, have been locked in a fierce legal battle over the constitutionality of the investigation panel to investigate the latter.
Ojong had dragged the chief judge, legislative council (Boki Local Government), the leader of the legislature and deputy leader to court seeking to stop the constitution of an investigation panel to investigate him as demanded by the other defendants.
The Boki legislature had served an impeachment notice on the council vice chairman alleging, among others, gross misconduct and abuse of office.
Challenging the action of the CJ in his originating summons dated December 22, 2011, the counsel to Ojong, Mr. Utum Esq, wants the court to determine 'whether it is lawful for Boki Legislative Council, Isaac Kekung (leader) and Deputy Leader, James A. Asu, to apply to the state chief judge, being 4th defendant, to constitute an investigation panel to investigate the claimant without complying with the mandatory requirement in Section 15(4)(5) of the Local Government Laws of Cross River State.
'The CJ is the 4th defendant in the Suit NO/HC/397/2011 while the Boki Legislative Council (Boki Local Government); Isaac Kekung (leader) and James A. Asu (deputy leader) are 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants respectively.'
Ojong is also seeking for a determination to know 'whether it is not mandatory that the legislative council, being the 3rd defendant, to satisfy the condition precedent on a resolution of two-third majority of all the members of the legislative council, being the 1st defendant to a meeting wherein motion that the allegation contained in the Notice of Impeachment of the November 2, 2007 be investigated.'
He contended that Isaac Kekung (leader) and James A. Asu's (deputy leader) failure to summon a meeting of the Boki Legislative Council after the suspended meeting of the 16/11/2011, which was within the time line provided by the Local Government Law, was a breach of Section 15(1)(5) of the Local Government Law that should not give effect to the appointment of a panel by the 4th respondent. However, not minding the originating summons, the CJ on Friday, January 6, set up a seven-man panel to investigate allegations contained in the impeachment notice.
The panel members have been mandated to thoroughly investigate the allegations raised by the Boki Legislative Council against the vice-chairman and make recommendations accordingly. Reacting to the inauguration of the panel by the CJ, the counsel to Ojong, Utum Esq, said with the summon, the CJ had lost power to set up the panel immediately suit NO/HC/397/2011was filed in to stop her action as she was joined as a party.
Utum, a senior member of the Bar said, 'she cannot be a judge in her own case because elementary law requires that the subject matter should be preserved until the issues are resolved as espoused by eminent justices including the erudite Justice Oputa, JSC, Niki Tobi, JSC and Kayode Eso, JSC. This was the Supreme Court admonition in the case of Military Governor of Lagos vs Ojukwu as reported in 1986.'
The Calabar-based rights activist contended that 'the fact that the issue of forgery of signatures has been brought to her attention by three of the councillors stated in writing that they did not sign is enough to look into the case before inaugurating the panel as she has no special interest in the matter.' He further said, 'the fact that the suit to stop her was filed on December 22, 2011, served on her and brought to her to assign with all the denials of signature papers attached and she assigned the case on January 5, 2012 about two weeks and then went ahead to inaugurate a committee on January 6, 2012 is quite unfortunate.'