BREAKING NEWS: COURT NULLIFIES IMPEACHMENT OF IMO DEPUTY GOVERNOR
An Imo State high court sitting in Owerri has nullified the impeachment of the Deputy Governor of the State, Prince Eze Madumere.
In a ruling, which lasted 3 hours, the trial judge, Justice Benjamin Iheka, said the removal of the Deputy Governor did not follow due process.
He noted that the setting up of the 7 member panel that investigated the gross allegation levelled against Prince Madumere by the Chief Judge of the State, Justice Paschal Nnadi, was not in compliance with the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic as amended.
The trial judge noted that the State House of Assembly went ahead and removed the Deputy Governor despite an order by the court restraining the action.
Justice Iheaka, therefore, declared the removal from office as null and void.
It could be recalled that Prince Madumere was removed from office on July 30, 2018 by the House of Assembly over allegations of dereliction of duty, imprisonment in the United States of America and gross misconduct.
The Deputy Governor was removed from office by 19 out of the 27 lawmakers that constitute the Imo State House of Assembly following a petition by the Deputy Speaker of the House Chief Ugonna Ozuruigbo.
His removal from office came less than 24 hours a state high court in Owerri issued an interim order restraining the state house of assembly from further deliberation on the allegation of gross misconduct leveled against the plaintiff, Prince Madumere.
Thereafter, Prince Madumere returned to the court seeking a pronouncement that his removal from office was an abuse of court process and did not comply with section 188 sub-section 5 of the constitution, which stipulated procedure for the impeachment & removal of a Governor or his deputy.
Part of the arguments of the defense counsel was that the court lacked jurisdiction to interfere with the proceedings of the legislature.
Ruling on the matter, the trial judge Justice Benjamin Iheaka said that the court had a duty to ensure strict compliance to the constitution of the land.
Justice Iheaka therefore nullified the impeachment and ordered that the plaintiff be reinstated as deputy governor.
Reacting, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Kingsley Ononuju, described the judgement as an affirmation of the supremacy of the law.
However, the Acting Solicitor of the state, Mrs. Chinyere Ibeh, who stood in for the State Attorney- General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Milletus Nlemadim, declined comment noting that she was not authorized to speak to journalists.
The reinstated Deputy Governor, Prince Eze Madumere, who addressed supporters who trooped to his campaign office in Owerri described the judgment as victory for democracy.
Imo had been without a Deputy Governor since July 2018 as the legal battle restrained the inauguration of the state head of service, Mr. Callistus Ekenze, to replace Prince Madumere.