Ekiti Whitepaper: Defend Yourself Now - NBA, Falana, Agbakoba Tell JKF
It is no longer news that a White Paper released by Ekiti State Government has indicted the former Governor of Ekiti State and Minister of Mines and Solid Mineral of Multi-Billion Naira, and barred him from holding a public office in the State for 10 years, but what is now making waves is the legal implication of this decision.
Just as lawyers and the general public have widely condemned this alleged vindictive panel which also barred the governor’s former Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Dapo Kolawole, for the same number of years, the Nigeria Bar Association bigwigs and political pundits have asked Fayemi to go and defend himself at the court of law rather than mere throwing away the report with a wave of hands.
The Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Ekiti State Government to look into the financial transactions of the State under the administration of Dr. Fayemi had said that the former governor must refund a sum of N2.75 billion allocated from the N25 billion bond obtained by the government for the execution of contract for the construction of Ultra-Modern market in Ado Ekiti, which was never executed, as alleged.
The Fountain Newsbreaker went to town to seek the views of the general public on the political and legal interpretations and implications of this report and the ten years political ban placed on the governor. The first point of call was the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Ado Ekiti and Ikere Ekiti Branches.
The Chairman of NBA Ikere-Ekiti Branch, Mr Oluwayomi Ojo, speaking on the implication the White Paper has on Dr Fayemi's political career, said; “the laymen will see him as a fraud and may not vote for him if he is presented by his Party, but legally speaking, there is no implication unless the court upholds the recommendations therein. It is only the court that can disqualify a candidate in an election. See Ladoja v. Akala. The former governor, no doubt, needs to challenge the White Paper and the report in court to set it aside.”
The Chairman of NBA Ado Ekiti Branch, Mr Daramola, could not speak to our reporter being the Secretary of the Panel, but the Secretary (NBA), Mrs Bolanle Ojo spoke with us. According to her, As generally speculated by the public that the White Paper has barred the political career of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, That is not the position of the Law.
The NBA scribe said that White Paper was only the report of findings of series of allegations against the previous Ekiti State Executive Governor. “The White Paper has only indicted him as alleged of misappropriations, while in governance, and has not convicted him of any allegation nor crime. It is only a competent Court of Jurisdiction that can convict him of the facts therein if any.
Mrs Ojo however said that the minister should go and defend himself at the court. “If any action is instituted against him in Court, he has the right to defend himself or engage a legal representative of his choice as upheld in the Doctrine of fair hearing as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
Lagos based Lawyer, Mr Femi Falana is not left in this call on Dr Fayemi to go and defend himself in the court to clear his name. According to the Ilawe-Ekiti born lawyer: “As a serving Minister in an administration that is fighting corruption, Dr. Fayemi has a duty to respond to his indictment by the judicial commission of enquiry, which probed the finances of Ekiti State under his watch. Alternatively, he may pray the court to annul the report. But he cannot afford to ignore the findings of the panel.
Speaking further, Falana said; “since Dr. Fayemi chose not to appear before the judicial panel, he has to explain his own side of the story to Ekiti people. This is in line with the principle of public accountability enshrined in the Freedom of Information Law and Fiscal Responsibility Law enacted by the Fayemi administration".
Former Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President, Olisa Agbakoba, has advised the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, to challenge in court the decision of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry which barred him from holding public office in Ekiti State and other parts of Nigeria for 10 years.
NBA’s Vice-President Monday Ubani concurred with Agbakoba that unless Fayemi urgently challenges the decision of the panel, it might affect him in the nearest future.
Agbakoba said: “This reminds me of Obasanjo vs Atiku, when Atiku was barred from holding public office and was disqualified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) “Kayode Fayemi will need to challenge the action in court; otherwise, it may be an issue for him, rightly or wrongly. If I were Dr Fayemi’s Legal Adviser, I would be heading to court.”
Ubani described as “ridiculous” Fayose’s ban on Fayemi saying: “It sounds ridiculous under our democracy for an executive arm of government to usurp a role of another arm of government (Judiciary) by banning a candidate from holding public office. It is repeated for the umpteenth time that it is only a properly constituted court that can ban a citizen of Nigeria from holding any public office.
Among other decisions of the Commission of Inquiry, the contractor in respect of the furnishing of the Government House built by the Fayemi’s administration, was asked to refund a sum of N324.8 million, noting that the contract should not have been more than N280 million.
The panel said it found out that KITWOOD Nigeria Limited to which the furnishing contract of over N600 million was awarded had no traceable address and that “the address on the Letter of Award is a virgin land at opposite the new Central Bank along new Iyin Road, Ado-Ekiti.
On the purchase of vehicles, the panel said “claim by Coscharis Motors that it supplied 235 and/or 250 vehicles was fraudulent and fraught with so many contradictions. “That Coscharis Motors supplied some vehicles outside Ekiti State, especially, at Ibadan Liaison office when Ekiti State Government does not have a Liaison office in Ibadan. In respect of this, seven vehicles were supplied outside the State and signed for by unknown persons.
That Coscharis Motors only supplied 219 vehicles to the Ekiti State government and that 17 Joylong Buses were supplied to the Ekiti State Government as gift, but later carted away.”
On the controversial N852.9 State Universal Education Board (SUBEB) fund, the Commission said it was clear that the Government of Dr Fayemi hoodwinked the federal government into paying its own matching grant by obtaining N852, 936,783.12 loan from Access Bank on November 25, 2013 without perfecting documentation in respect of the loan, thereby flouting the provisions of Section 11(2) of the UBEC Act, 2004
Meanwhile, a press release signed by Mr Olayinka Oyebode, Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the Minister of Mines and Steel Development has condemned the White Paper in its entirety. The press release reads:
”The attention of the Media Office of the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, has been drawn to the pre-meditated verdict of the Ekiti State Government, as contained in the White Paper submitted by the panel set up by Governor Ayo Fayose to investigate the finances of the State between 2010 and 2014.
While we believe it is part of the responsibilities of the State administration to look into the finances of the State at any point in time, we are also of the belief that such must be done in a very responsible manner devoid of prejudice, witch hunting and a calculated attempt to victimise a citizen.
In this particular case, the entire process is discredited, right from the beginning, as the only agenda of the panel was to rubbish Dr Kayode Fayemi’s public service record.
One is therefore not surprised at the recommendations of the White Paper: It only goes to confirm our initial position that the panel was compromised right from inception and targeted against Dr Fayemi.
In his desperation, Governor Fayose chose the crude and ignoble path towards hitting a perceived political foe. In the process, they ignored the rule of law and behaved as if the court does not matter. Thus making their actions subjudice to the court.
Fayose was however misguided into believing that he could pass a death sentence on Dr Fayemi’s public service with the White Paper. This is not only laughable, but ridiculous, as neither Governor Fayose nor his paid agents has the power to bar anyone from political participation.
The entire process and the character personae involved are discredited and since it is impossible to build something on nothing, legally speaking, their recommendation is not only null and void, it is ultra vires.
We urge the teeming supporters of Dr Fayemi, the good people of Ekiti State and the general public, not to be disturbed by the development. It is simply another act of illegality, from an administration that has elevated political debauchery to state craft.