Judge Shuns Probe Panel On Aregbesola

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Abdulrauf Aregbesola

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Justice Olamide Folahanmi, a high court judge in Osun State, has declared her intention not to appear in person before the probe panel investigating corrupt allegations against Governor Rauf Aregbesola because she suspects bias

JUSTICE Olamide Folahanmi, a high court judge in Osun State on Tuesday, July 28, whose petition led to the probe of Governor Rauf Aregbesola, is not happy about the conduct of the exercise. Folahanmi is insisting that except she is given the copy of the reply by Aregbesola to her petition, she would not appear in person before the panel set up by the state House of Assembly to look into the matter.

Adegboye Akintunde, chairman of the probe panel, however, said the governor’s response would not be made available to the petitioner.

The panel began its sitting at the Committee Hall of the House of Assembly, on Tuesday, July 28, with heavy presence of security agents in and around the complex and with an armoured tank stationed opposite the Assembly’s Complex.

Folahanmi who was represented by Lanre Ogunlesi, SAN, told journalists after a closed-door meeting with the seven-man committee explained that justice and fair hearing demand that the petitioner be availed with the governor’s response to the judge’s petition.

“Fear hearing demands that as a first step to defending the petition, it is necessary for the petitioner to be provided with the governor’s response.

“What we discussed with them was that for us not to waste time on this matter, answers to the petition by the governor should be made available.

“They said the committee was a fact-finding one, but the issue at stake was a serious one and for the sake of posterity and the people yet unborn, they need to forward the answers to her.

“She may even come out and say I am sorry, I withdraw my petition after going through the governor’s reply and may not need to see the committee again.

“But, I want to say that she will be here. We are not running away. She is bold enough to write the petition and she is prepared to defend it. If she should have the reply today, she will be here tomorrow”.

Ogunlesi, who was a former attorney-general and commissioner for Justice in Ogun State, however, expressed reservation at the attitudes of the committee members, saying with the way they talked, the committee was likely going to close the case.

“They said they have their rules but they are not forthcoming towards our demand. They said they will decide and that we will be hearing from them. It maybe that they have made up their minds on what to do,” he said.

In his reaction, Akintunde said that his committee could not provide the petitioner with Aregbesola’s response saying it was a confidential document sent to the House of Assembly by the governor.

“The rule of the House is clear. Order 26 says that petition must come to the House through a member and again the petition must be signed page by page. But we are not looking at this. We wrote petitioner by inviting her to defend her allegations.

“Another rule is broken because for clarity sake, the petitioner is not here and she needs to come in person but we allowed his representatives.

“This is not the end of the petition. We are still going to take our report to the floor of the house where every member of the House will debate it. But she is the one who sent the petition and the onus rest in her to prove it.

“Her petition must have been dead on arrival it was not sent according to the rule of the house. But we made this rule. We are arbiter in this case and this is not a trial court. But we will get in touch with her,” Akintunde said.

On the issue of two weeks ultimatum given to the committee which would expire on Thursday, July 30, Adegboye said, the committee could ask for extension of time if need for such arrived.

Asked about allegation of bias levelled against the panel by Civil Societies Coalition for Emancipation of Osun State based on the fact that no lawmaker from the opposition party in the House was allowed to be a member of the committee, Akintude said the panel was capable of dispensing justice. “We know what we are doing. We are not a trial court but a fact-finding committee. This is an ad-hoc committee,” he said. Besides, he said members of the committee needed to also protect their good names.

—  Jul 29 2015 @ 15:25 GMT

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