Imo lawmakers defy court injunction, impeach Madumere
OWERRI—IMO State Deputy Governor , Eze Madumere, has been impeached by the State House of Assembly. He was impeached by 19 out of the 37 members of the Assembly. Okorocha and Madumere Following the impeachment, the state House of Assembly has confirmed Mr Calistus Ekenze as the replacement of Madumere. The confirmation was after the Majority leader of the House, Mr. Lugard Osuji, moved the motion for the adoption of Ekenze, as Madumere’s replacement. Until the Ekenze recognition by the state House of Assembly, he was the head of Imo state civil service. Ekenze is from the same Mbaitoli local government area, of the impeached deputy governor. The impeachment came after an Imo State High Court presided over by Hon. Justice Ben Iheka, restrained the state Chief Judge, Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly and the State House of Assembly from taking any further action in the planned impeachment of Madumere until the hearing and determination of a case before it in which the deputy governor was seeking to stop his impeachment. The Assembly had earlier received a report by a panel set up by the state chief judge which allegedly indicted Madumere of gross misconduct. Madumere has been having a running political battle with Governor Rochas Okorocha over the latter’s successor in 2019. While he seeks to succeed Governor Okorocha, the governor reportedly supports his son-in-law. The crisis worsened during the APC local government and state congresses in the state with Okorocha and his deputy supporting separate factions. Although the APC faction supported by Madumere and Senator Osita Izunaso, was initially recognised by the national leadership of the party, its election was overturned by the court. It should be recalled that on July 10, the assembly commenced impeachment proceedings against Madumere. Ugonna Ozuruigbo, the deputy speaker of the House had moved the motion that the impeachment notice be served on him. The former deputy governor was accused of abandoning his duties for a long time and refusing to carry out official duties assigned to him by the governor, among others. The House set up a six-man committee headed by Kennedy Ibe, member representing Obowo Local Government Area to probe the allegations and report back within seven days. Earlier, Acho Ihim, the speaker suspended a lawmaker who kicked against the impeachment process. Before now, the House had suspended the pro-Madumere lawmakers who are in the minority. Madumere emerged deputy governor following the ousting of Jude Agbaso. However, his governorship ambition pitched him against Rochas Okorocha, the incumbent governor. While Okorocha is rooting for Uche Nwosu, his son-inlaw who is currently his chief of staff, Madumere is banking on the support of some influential politicians in the state. Okorocha and Madumere belong to two different factions of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the state. Lawmakers defy court injuction Earlier yesterday, an Imo State High Court presided over by Justice Ben Iheka had restrained the state Chief Judge, the Speaker of Imo State House of Assembly and the House from taking any further action in the planned impeachment of the former deputy governor until the hearing and determination of the matter. Justice Iheka equally ordered the three members of the panel who from the records available to the court, were yet to be served the motion for interlocutory injunction, to “respect the pendency of the suit and refrain from doing anything that will tamper, in whatsoever manner, the subject of the suit.” Kicking off the legal battle earlier, in suit number HOW/565/2018, Madumere’s counsel, Ken Njemanze, SAN, said: “We are very prepared to go on with the matter and the parties have been served with the processes.” Continuing, Njemanze said: “Due to the nature of the subject matter of this suit, which touches and concerns the office and person of the deputy governor, coupled with the fact that we have filed an affidavit of urgency, I humbly apply that the interest of justice in this matter will be served if the court makes an interim order, directing parties, particularly those served, to maintain the status quo.” While praying that the three members of the panel, who were yet to be served the motion for interlocutory injunction should respect the pendency of the suit, Njemanze also reminded the court about it’s annual vacation which begins July 31. “The court is likely going on vacation tomorrow (today) and the second to eight respondents who were appointed by the first respondent (the Chief Judge) to investigate the plaintiff have been inaugurated and sworn-in to begin their assignment. If an order for the maintenance of the status quo is not made, the panelists will continue and conclude. The substratum will therefore be lost before the court resumes”, Njemanze said. He reminded the court that the plaintiff was challenging the validity of the constitution of the panel, stressing that “the court has the power to do what we have asked you to do”. Responding, the Attorney General, AG, and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. M. O. Nlemadim, SAN, said he was opposing the plaintiff’s submission. “We are opposing the application for an interim order. Our contention is that the grant of an interim order will not serve the interest of justice. This is an indirect way of getting the order. We expect an accelerated hearing. The panel’s job is provided for by the constitution. It will be unconstitutional to make an interim order,” Nlemadim said. A dialogue then ensued between the Court and the Attorney General: COURT: Do you agree that the panel has been constituted and sworn in, and they can start and finish their work? AG: Yes, I agree but I can’t speak for them. COURT: Since you can’t speak for them, it follows that you cannot guarantee that they will not go ahead with their assignment when the Court is on vacation. AG: My Lord, I can’t guarantee this. In his own submission, counsel to the Speaker and Imo State House of Assembly, Mr. O. C. Chibueze, aligned himself with the submissions of the AG, even as he also told the Court that he was not in a position to give the guarantee required of him by the Court. The Court then gave its ruling and adjourned the matter to August 13, 2018, for the hearing of the motion on notice.