Leading lawyers of Ekiti State origin on Wednesday described as unacceptable the impeachment of the speaker of the state House of Assembly, Gboyega Aribisogan, tagging the action as a coup d’etat against the state.
The senior advocates — Aare Afe Babalola, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Dele Adesina, Olu Daramola, Femi Falana, Dayo Akinlaja and Gboyega Oyewole — who insisted that Aribisogan remained the speaker and that the action of the Olubunmi Adelugba group to impeach him was a nullity, asserted that she could not continue as speaker.
The lawyers stated these in a statement titled, “Ekiti State House of Assembly impeachment saga: This constitutional and democratic rascality must stop henceforth!”
Aribisogan, who was Leader of Government Business, on November 15 got 15 votes to emerge speaker to replace the late Funminiyi Afuye having defeated the former Chief Whip, Adelugba, who scored 10 votes.
But some lawmakers regrouped on November 21 at the plenary and elected Adelugba as the new speaker following the reported impeachment of Aribisogan for allegedly sabotaging the passage of the 2022 appropriation bill among other allegations.
But the senior advocates stated, “Hon. Olubunmi Adelugba cannot continue in office as speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, and we plead with her to honourably stop parading, presenting or holding herself out as the speaker of the state, as her so-doing constitutes not just an illegality and unconstitutionality, but also a perseverance in such an unlawful enterprise.
“In like manner, we plead with the members of the House of Assembly to allow all principal officers of the House, including the Deputy Speaker, the Chief Whip, the Majority Leader etc., continue in office, without making any attempt to impeach or replace any of them.”
They queried how Aribisogan could have committed an infraction since the Assembly was sealed by the police the morning after his inauguration.
The senior lawyers also asked if he was confronted with the allegations against him to warrant his suspension.
They stated, “The alleged suspension and stoppage of the salaries of the speaker and six other members of the House are no less misplaced, illegal, illegitimate, null and void.
“If care is not taken, and if all of us seal our lips, fold our arms and get relaxed on our seats and allow this rascality and impunity to go unchecked, in no distant future, the governor of the state would be impeached and forced out of office in like manner.
“This is absolutely unwarranted, unjustified and condemnable. By way of argument, the sponsors of the charade and their cohorts in the House have foisted on the entire state a coup d’etat, in the sense that the suspension of more than one quarter of the members of the House equally translates to the fact that members of their constituencies have also been suspended from the state.”
The SANS, who said the buck stopped at Governor Biodun Oyebanji’s table, said his silence in the face of the “apparent threat to peace, order, good governance and harmony in the state is not the best.”
They advised the House to appreciate “the inviolate nature of the sovereignty of the legislative House and stop hobnobbing with outsiders or powers-that- be to usurp the powers and jurisdiction, rights and privileges, constitutionally and democratically conferred on them.”
Meanwhile, Aribisogan, who said the action of the lawmaker could not stand in the face of the law, expressed confidence that the court would declare the “kangaroo and illegal impeachment” as a criminal act.
He said he had instructed his lawyers to proceed with the matter in court.
“Even if 24 of the 25 members of the Assembly were there, it would still have been illegal because they did not follow due process. Procedurally, it was wrong for them to have entered that place by 5.30am and conducted an impeachment by 6am.
“The Standing Order in Ekiti State House of Assembly said that the House shall meet by 10am for both parliamentary meetings and plenary sessions, not 6am.
“Then, the fact that the police had earlier sealed off the place, how they were able to gain entrance and conducted that kangaroo and illegal impeachment on Monday while the police were still claiming that they were protecting that place still remains a question they must answer,” Aribisogan said.