The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Monday adjourned further proceedings in the case filed by the Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa to October 30, 2023.
This was after the Hon. Justice Emeka Nwite took extensive arguments from the lawyers representing the parties on the issue of service of court processes and the alleged disobedience to the subsisting order of the court made on September 26, 2023, against the impeachment of the deputy governor.
At Monday’s proceedings, the court first delivered its pending ruling on the arguments canvassed by the parties on the last court date on October 9, 2023, on the effect of the reconciliation committee set up by the All Progressives Congress and the petition to the National Judicial Council by the House of Assembly of Ondo State.
The court held in its ruling that it would hear all pending applications since some of the said applications involve the issue of jurisdiction of the court. The court further held that since all parties in the case do not share mutual agreement on the issue of reconciliation and settlement, it would not adjourn the case on that ground alone but would proceed to hear the case.
The court then proceeded to take arguments on the status of pending applications.
On the part of the deputy governor, it was argued by his counsel that the application of the Governor of Ondo State challenging the jurisdiction of the court was not ripe for hearing as it was only served on the plaintiff on the last hearing date of October 9, 2023, and that the plaintiff had seven days to respond to it, which he had already filed.
It was further argued that the plaintiff was still within the time permitted by law to serve their processes on the Department of State Services and the Inspector-General of Police, as a matter of law.
The plaintiff also raised the issue of the press release issued by the counsel for the House of Assembly on October 14, 2023, to the extent that the House had not suspended the impeachment proceedings when indeed there was a subsisting order of the court to the contrary.
The court was then urged to deny the House of Assembly the right to audience based on the press statement of their counsel.
It was argued that even if a party was challenging the jurisdiction of the court, it still had a duty to obey any order made by the court and the court would prioritize the issue of compliance with its order above the issue of its jurisdiction.
On the part of the governor, the counsel argued that the court could not wait for the DSS and the IGP since they had been served hearing notices from the court.
It was argued that since the court had already decided to hear the applications, the presence of the DSS and IGP could be dispensed with. The counsel argued that the issue of contempt of court could not be raised with an affidavit except to follow the procedure laid down in the Rules of the Court for initiating contempt proceedings.
For the House of Assembly, the counsel argued that the issue of disobedience to the order of the court had been settled on the last court date when the counsel for the Assembly apologized to the court and gave an undertaking for compliance. The counsel argued that the press statement that was complained about by the plaintiff did not contain any contemptuous issue at all as it only sought to affirm the resolve of the Assembly in following due process of law.
In reply, the counsel for the deputy governor urged the court to hear the substantive originating summons of the plaintiff along with all objections raised by the defendants, as that is the directive contained in the rules of the court and the practice of the Supreme Court, in order to save time.
After listening to all the lawyers involved in the case, the court directed that all processes filed should be served on all the parties.
It stated further that given the legal submissions made by the various counsel for the parties, it would be proper to take time to go through them and deliver a well-considered ruling. It added that the court would be fair to all the parties in the case.
The case was then adjourned to October 30, 2023, for ruling.
The court on September 26, 2023, granted an order of injunction against the defendants in respect of the complaints of the deputy governor. The defendants include the Ondo House of Assembly and the Chief Judge of the state.