Court Voids Ondo’s Probe of Chief Judge

CJ Ondo State Justice Akeredolu

A Federal High Court in Abuja has set aside all steps taken by the Ondo State Governor, the state’s Attorney General and the House of Assembly in relation to the probe of allegations of official misconduct raised against the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu in a viral video made by one of her relatives, Olupelumi Fagboyegun.

Fagboyegun had, in the video that was made public on social media, accused Justice Akeredolu of among others, abusing her office and influencing his prolonged detention.

In a judgment on Thursday, Justice Inyang Ekwo upheld Justice Akeredolu case, to the effect that the governor, the AG and the House of Assembly lacked the constitutional powers to engage in the probe of the allegations of official misconduct made against the state’s Chief Judge by Fagboyegun in his video.

The judgment was in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2016/2021 filed by Justice Akeredolu against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Governor of Ondo State, Ondo AG, the state House of Assembly and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), alleging that the Ondo governor, AG and House of Assembly were plotting to remove her from office.

Justice Ekwo held that there is no law that empowers the Ondo AG or the state governor to conduct any investigation in relation to allegations of official misconduct against the State’s Chief Judge and recommend such investigation to the House of Assembly.

He further held that it is only the NJC that is empowered under the Constitution to probe allegations of official misconduct against any judge.

Justice Ekwo, who earlier dismissed the notices preliminary objection raised by the AGF and NJC, frowned at the publication of the purported probe of the plaintiff on the social media.

“It is apparent from Exhibits JSO and JSO 3 that the fourth defendant (Ondo AG), without any constitutional backing, was embarking on a charade meant to attract negative public attention to the office of the plaintiff by purporting to be conducting investigation on the allegations against the plaintiff.

“The process of dealing with allegations of misconduct of judicial officers generally, is well stated in the JDR (Judiciary Disciplinary Regulation) of the second defendant (the NJC) and ought to be adhered to.

“The purported investigation into any allegation of misconduct by a judicial officer, like the plaintiff, is a solemn constitutional matter that must be kept out of social frenzy. The supremacy of the Constitution and the sanctity of the office must be preserved.

“I believe the fourth defendant, being the Chief Law Officer of Ondo State, is aware that where the law provides a procedure for doing a thing, any other method employed to do such a thing is excluded.

“Any officer of the law who breaches the provision of the very Constitution that creates his office is not worthy of the office. He is a terror to all conscientious beings.

“Upon perusing the processes in this case and the exhibits tendered, I am unable to see where the fourth defendant (Ondo AG), or the third and fifth defendants (Ondo governor and the House of Assembly) complied with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) or JDR 2017 with respect to the act of investigating the office of the plaintiff.

“They ought to be stopped forthwith. In conclusion, I find that the case of the plaintiff has not been effectively challenged by the first and second defendants, and, has not been challenged at all by the third, fourth, fifth and sixth defendants.

“The judge proceeded to grant all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff including an order of perpetual injunction, restraining all the defendants from further taking any steps in relation to the case.

“An order is hereby made setting aside, nullifying and putting away any decision of the third, fourth and fifth defendants (Ondo governor, Ondo AG and House of. Assembly) and or any other steps taken thereon and in particular, the purported investigation report of the 3 and 4″ Defendants released on social media on 18″ February 2021 by the third and fourth defendants in so far as it relates to the office of the plaintiff as the Chief Judge of Ondo State, the same being inconsistent with sections 36(1), 153 of the 1999 Constitution and Item 2i(d) of the Third Schedule (Part 1), thereto read together with sections 271 and 292 of the same constitution,” Justice Ekwo said.

Justice Akeredolu had stated in a supporting affidavit that after the video by Fagboyegun was allegedly published online by Dele Momodu and Femi Fani-Kayode, the then AG of Ondo State, Charles Titiloye said he investigated the claim by Fagboyegun that the CJ instigated his detention for three years and found the claim to be false.

The plaintiff added that despite the AG’s finding that Fagboyegun’s claims were false, “the same Hon. Attorney General of Ondo State, in further demonstration of the script he acted, said in the report that: This matter is further referred to Ondo State House of Assembly for investigation.”

Justice Akeredolu stated that the Ondo State governor, the AG and House of Assembly “have vowed to remove her from her office as Chief Judge of Ondo State on the trumped up allegations being sponsored on social media as aforesaid.

“That the third to fifth defendants (Ondo State governor, the AG and House of Assembly) have elicited the political support of the first and sixth defendants (the AGF and IGP) to illegally remove her from office when she has not been investigated by the second defendant (NJC), which has the constitutional duty to do so.”

She added that all the defendants, except the NJC “are planning to and will use unlawful means to remove her from office as Chief Judge of Ondo State and interfere with the performance of her judicial functions unless this court intervenes.”

The Nation

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