The Ondo State House of Assembly has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC) expressing displeasure over a Federal High Court order restraining the legislative house from performing its functions as an arm of government.

The state House of Assembly in the petition described the ex-parte order granted by the court on the 26th of September, 2023, restraining the Assembly from impeaching the Ondo State Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, as “unconstitutional and clearly malevolent”.

In the petition addressed to the NJC and signed by the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon. Olamide Oladiji, the Ondo Assembly accused Justice Emeka Nwite of allegedly compromising his office and violating the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

According to the petition, the parliamentarians alleged that Justice Nwite had “compromised his office to grant an unconstitutional ex parte in favour” of the embattled Deputy Governor.

The petition partly read, “As the Speaker of the 10th Ondo State House of Assembly, and on behalf of the entire members of the House of Assembly (hereinafter referred to as “ODHA”), I write your lordship to formally lodge a complaint against Hon. Justice Emeka Nwite of the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, for compromising his office and violating the extant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), ignoring judicial decisions of the appellate courts and extant Practice Directions and/or relevant Circulars of the Federal High Court, to grant an unconstitutional, clearly malevolent, and ostensibly procured ex parte order on 26th September 2023 in Suit FHC/ABJ/CS/1294/2023 restraining ODHA as an arm of government from exercising its constitutional powers”.

The house recalled that on “September 2023, Eleven (11) members of the Ondo State Assembly presented a notice of allegation(s) of gross misconduct (impeachment notice) against the Deputy-Governor of Ondo State, His Excellency, Hon. Lucky Orimisan Aiyedatiwa to me as the Speaker, in line with Section 188(2) (a) & (b) of the Constitution. I hereby attach a copy of the notice as Annexure ODHA.

“As your lordship would observe, annexure ODHA contains 14 allegations, many of which relate to alleged financial improprieties running into hundreds of millions of naira.

“My Lord, as a ranking member of ODHA and based on the benefit of a detailed legal advice which the House has sought on the subject matter, I know as a fact that impeachment is a purely legislative affair.

“Section 188 (10) of the Constitution clearly provides that: “No proceedings or determination of the House of Assembly or an Impeachment Panel or any matter relating to such proceedings or determination shall be entertained or questioned in any court”.

“However, in spite of the above provisions of the Constitution, the Deputy-Governor approached Justice Emeka Nwite with an ex parte application on 21st September, 2023, just a day after I received Annexure ODHA1 (the notice of allegations of gross misconduct) against him at the plenary of the House, to procure an order to stop the legislative process of his impeachment.”

The petition added that “My lord, as a Judge of the Federal High Court, Hon. Justice Emeka Nwite knows or ought to know that there are extant Circulars and Practice Directions prohibiting Federal High Court Judges from granting ex parte injunctions in political cases and/or taking cases that did not originate from their immediate Judicial Divisions”

The house, however, resolved that Hon. Justice Emeka Nwite should be investigated for “abuse of ex parte injunction and/or his office to gratify the Ondo State Deputy-Governor, and if found liable, the National Judicial Council should mete out the appropriate sanction against him as required by the dictates of judicial fidelity and the protection of the rule of law and our nascent democracy”.

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