Justice, Rule of Law and Ekiti Panel of Inquiry, by Seyi Ibiloye
It is apparent the probe is crucial to the Fayose’s administration for the reason that borders on political vendetta. Certainly this cannot be more important than the rule of law and justice it intends to circumvent in the process
Ekiti State’s socio-political scenario has always been an interesting one. And it is usually made more interesting by the array of interested parties and an army of commentators who daily labour to interpret developments in the state by simply taking a cursory look at the turn of events, thereby ignoring the underlying factors which are the very essentials.
It is tandem with this tradition of hastiness that many have attempted to analyse the controversy that has trailed the Ekiti State Panel of Enquiry set up by Governor Ayo Fayose to investigate the tenure of his predecessor in office, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is currently the Minister of Mines and Steel Development.
Governor Fayose had on May 22 inaugurated the commission of enquiry based on a resolution of the State House of Assembly mandating him to do so. Former Governor Fayemi on the other hand went to court to, among other things, draw the attention of the governor, the state House of Assembly and the seven members of the panel to the two cases (bordering on Ekiti finances) that were still pending in court. He also sought an order of the court restraining the panel from going ahead with the probe based on the pendency of the two cases in the Ado Ekiti and Abuja High courts.
The government’s natural reaction was that the Minister was running away from justice. And this is what some commentators are inadvertently re-echoing. The fact, however, is that Fayemi is simply running away from the injustice that the composition of the panel represents.
As noted by Romanian-born American Jewish Writer and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Fayemi’s recourse to the court is, and should be seen essentially, as a protest against the injustice which the panel, the Assembly and Governor Fayose are in a haste to perpetrate.
One major pointer to this is that the Fayose administration had spent well over two years without thinking of any probe until Dr. Fayemi slammed a libel suit against one of the governor’s spokespersons, Lere Olayinka, and a member of the state House of Assembly, Dr. Samuel Omotosho. In the libel suit, Fayemi wants the duo of Olayinka and Omotosho to defend their allegations that he stole the state government’s money, illegally withdrew N852 million UBEC money, donated N1.5 billion to President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign in 2015 and built a university in Ghana.
Piqued by the development, the Assembly’s panicky response to the suit against one of them was to initiate a probe against Fayemi. This is to achieve one objective: to rubbish the person of the Minister and the libel case he had instituted at an Abuja High Court.
The action of the House necessitated Dr. Fayemi’s second law suit where he asked the court to restrain the House of Assembly from inviting him and to set aside the warrant of arrest it issued because due process and rule of law were not followed in exercising the powers.
But the House disregarded the suits and passed a resolution on May 11, directing Governor Fayose to set up a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to investigate the finances of the state during the tenure of Dr. Fayemi as Governor of the state especially, how N852 million SUBEB money was allegedly embezzled by Fayemi. Governor Fayose inaugurated the Judicial Commission of Enquiry barely a week after the resolution.
Interestingly, the terms of reference of the commission is basically the same issue of financial transaction of Ekiti State between 2010 and 2014, especially the allegation of theft of N852m SUBEB fund which were pending before the Abuja and Ado Ekiti High Courts.
This again necessitated Fayemi’s third suit filed at an Ado Ekiti High Court restraining the Judicial Commission of Enquiry from sitting because of the circumstances surrounding its creation and its composition.
Fayemi’s argument in the latest suit is that the House of Assembly breached its own standing rules which forbid it from discussing any matter that is pending in court. Chapter VIII, with the subtitle, Rules of Debate, Section 54, Sub section 5 reads: “Reference shall not be made to any matter on which a Judicial decision is pending, in such a way as might in the Speaker’s opinion, prejudice the interest of parties thereto”
The question that should be asked, and sincerely too, is why would the House violate its own standing rule in setting up the commission of enquiry? Why can’t the House and the state governor wait until the courts make their ruling on the subsisting cases before going ahead with the probe.
It is also on record that the same House of Assembly had earlier in a petition to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, passed judgement on Dr. Fayemi and urged the anti-graft agency to prosecute him. It has even gone a step further to subtly blackmail the EFCC when the latter had yet to come up with any charge against the Minister.
Thus in the reckoning of Fayemi’s counsel, Chief Rafiu Balogun, the Ekiti State House of Assembly acted in flagrant contravention of the principle of separation of powers and had committed a fundamental breach of the Standing Order of the House of Assembly and doctrine of subjudice by revisiting the issue of investigation of the Fayemi-led administration and passing a resolution for the setting up of a judicial commission of enquiries with terms and reference that would prejudice the outcome of the case between him and the House of Assembly and its speaker.
The Minister is also seeking a declaration that the House of Assembly cannot exercise its power under Section 128 of the 1999 Constitution, to direct Ekiti State Governor to set up a judicial commission of enquiry to investigate his administration while the House had earlier conducted its investigation and submitted its report to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission urging the anti-graft body to further conduct discreet investigation and prosecute him and some officials of his administration.
Many legal minds have argued that the decision of the State Assembly to set up the panel after it had concluded its investigation on allegations of financial malpractices and had submitted same to the EFCC amounts to oppression, double jeopardy and a clear abuse of legislative power.
Many who subscribe to the sanctity of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man would readily agree that justice in this matter cannot be served when the purported commission of enquiry was constituted in flagrant disregard for the two pending cases which are related to the matters the commission is set up to address.
The words of renowned German Theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is so apt in this particular scenario: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
It is apparent the probe is crucial to the Fayose’s administration for the reason that borders on political vendetta. Certainly this cannot be more important than the rule of law and justice it intends to circumvent in the process.
It is in running away from injustice that Fayemi has approached the temple of justice, with the hope that justice would be done to the vexed issue of Ekiti state probe.
. Ibiloye, a public affairs analyst, writes from Ado-Ekiti.