- L-R: Matawalle, Gusau *
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, warned the Zamfara House of Assembly against plan to impeach the state’s Deputy Governor, Mahdi Gusau.
Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the warning after counsel to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Gusau, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN, prayed the court to make an ordering restraining the lawmakers from carrying out their plan.
Although Justice Ekwo did not specifically made the order, he held that since parties in the suit had subjected themselves to the court jurisdiction, no party should take any action until the pendency of the matter in court.
He said since Nigeria is a country with rule of law, everyone must submit themselves to the tenet of the law.
“If any party feels certain actions need to be taken, an application must be made to the court for that to be granted,” he said.
Earlier, Ukala told the court that the matter was adjourned for his motion on notice to be taken.He said inspite of the court order, the Zamfara House of Assembly had threatened to impeach the deputy governor.
Although counsel to all the defendants in the suit said they had been served by the plaintiffs and did not intend to file any response, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, who represented 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th defendants, indicated his intention to respond to the motion served on him and the amended originating summons.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th defendants are the Speaker of House of Assembly, Governor of Zamfara, Chief Judge of Zamfara and Governor Bello Matawalle in person respectively.
Others joined in the suit are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the All Progressives Congress (APC), President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives as 1st to 4th defendants whileNAN reports that the court had also, on Feb. 10, ordered Matawalle, alongside the three senators, six members of the House of Representatives and the 24 members of the Zamfara House of Assembly to be joined in suit following the PDP’s application.
They were said to have defected on June 29, 2021, from the PDP to APC.
Ozekhome, however, said that there were several untrue information in the process served on him.Ozekhome, who hinted that he was only served the motion on reinstatement and maintaining the status quo by the plaintiffs counsel on Friday, said he would need more time to respond.
But Ukala urged the court to make an order specifically restraining the defendants from carrying out the impeachment threat pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The judge said since the motion had been filed and Ozekhome had indicated the intention to file a response, the motion would be taken in the next adjourned date.
Ekwo, however, advised parties to allow the law to take its course by not taking the law into their hands.
But unsatisfied by the judge’s pronouncement, Ukala prayed the court to compel Ozekhome to sign an undertaking on behalf of his clients that the status quo shall be maintain.
In response, Ozekhome disagreed with the senior lawyer on signing an undertaking.
He told the court that Ukala only served him the amended originating summons, the motion to revive the status quo, as well as a motion for interlocutory injunction just on Friday, Feb. 11.He argued that by the rules of court, he was entitled to 7 days each to respond to both motions and 30 days to respond to the amended originating summons.
He said maintenance of status quo order was based on a mere letter of invitation sent to the deputy governor to appear before the House to answer certain questions, and not an order against impeachment.
In his ruling, Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until March 10 to take all pending applications. NAN reports that the court had, on Feb. 10, granted the PDP’s plea to joined the person of Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara as defendant in a suit seeking his removal.
Ekwo, in a ruling, also granted the PDP’s reliefs to joined members of the national and state’s assemblies that defected, alongside Matawalle, from the party to APC as defendants.
The judge, in addition, granted the prayer to join the Zamfara Deputy Governor, Mahdi Gusau, as second plaintiff in the suit.
NAN reports that while the governor and others defected to APC, the deputy governor, Gusau, did not.
NAN reports that the PDP had, earlier, sued INEC, APC, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Speaker of House of Assembly, Governor of Zamfara and Chief Judge of Zamfara as the 1st to 7th defendants respectively.
But the party, in a motion for joinder marked: FHC/ABJ /CS /650/2021 on Oct. 30, 2021, asked the court to join Matawalle, the three Zamfara senators and 27 other lawmakers who defected from the party to the APC in the lawsuit.
The PDP had sought to join Matawalle as a person and not only his office in the amended application.
The PDP is specifically asking the court to sack Matawalle, the three senators, six members of the House of Representatives and all state House of Assembly lawmakers who dumped the party for the APC.
The PDP had sought the court order, joining Matawalle as the 8th defendant since only his office had been sued in the earlier request.
The PDP, in an originating summons dated and filed on July 8, requested the court’s interpretation of Articles 1 (2), 188, 287, 221, 177 (c), 106 (d) and 65 ( 2) (b), among other provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended for the determination of four main issues as set out in the petition.
It asked the court to determine whether Matawalle and all lawmakers are eligible to continue to hold the various political offices in which they were elected on the plaintiff’s platform.
“This part of the plaintiff’s complaint in the originating summons also concerns the attempts of the 5th to 7th defendants to initiate impeachment proceedings against the 2nd party (Gusau) sought to be joined, which is member of the requesting political group. party and was elected to the post of deputy governor of Zamfara on the platform of the complainant.
“That the parties requested to be joined have been named in the originating summons and that their actions and inactions form part of the material facts which gave rise to the cause of action and to the object of the originating summons proceedings and are therefore persons whose interests may be affected by the outcome of this case ”, among others.
The party stated that the request was made in the interests of justice to join said persons as co-plaintiff and defendant in order to enable the court to examine and resolve in an efficient and effective manner all the issues in dispute. in the matter once and for all and to avoid a multiplicity of actions on the same subject.
It said the ruling was intended to ensure that “the ends of justice are not overcome by mere technical objections to the joinder of the parties.”
Matawalle became governor of the state, following a Supreme Court ruling on March 24, 2019, which overturned the APC primaries in the state.
NAN reports that the Chief Judge of Zamfara, Justice Kulu Aliyu, on Monday inaugurated a seven-member panel to investigate allegations of gross misconduct and abuse of office against Aliyu.
The panel was constituted following a request by the state House of Assembly in a letter signed by the Speaker, Nasiru-Muazu Magarya, on Feb. 10.
The Assembly had at its sitting on Feb. 7, served the deputy governor with a notice of impeachment for alleged gross misconduct and abuse of office.
The seven-man panel of investigation has retired Justice Halidu Tanko-Soba as Chairman.
Other members include Oladipo Okpeseyi SAN, Abdul-Atadoga Ibrahim SAN, Hussaini Zakariyau, SAN, Amina Tanimu-Marafa, Alhaji Sani Mande and Ahmad Buhari-Rabah.(NAN)