Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State seems to have dealt Kayode Fayemi, his political foe and minister of mines and steel, a heavy blow when the judicial commission of inquiry recommends banning of him from holding public office for 10 years, but it appears that is not likely to be the end as both gladiators to flex their muscles
- Olu Ojewale
THEY are political sworn enemies. Their enmity took a new dimension on Monday, January 15, when Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State announced that Kayode Fayemi, minister of mines and steel development and his predecessor in office, had been banned from holding public office in the state and other parts of the country for 10 years.
The ban emanated from the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by the Fayose administration to investigate activities of Fayemi while he was in office between 2010 and 2014.
The panel, which was headed by Sila Oyewole, a former acting chief judge of Ekiti State, submitted its report on December 13, last year, to Fayose, recommending that Fayemi must refund more than N2.7 billion in contract sum awarded by his administration and that he should return 17 vehicles. The government also directed the ministry of justice to institute appropriate legal actions to this effect.
Fayemi is not the only alleged culprit. The panel similarly recommended 10-year ban from public office for Dapo Kolawole, the former commissioner for Finance and Economic Development, who served in the Fayemi administration.
The governor’s pronouncement followed the receipt of a White Paper on the report of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry which carried out the investigation. The White Paper also recommended that the duo should refund various sums of money to the coffers of the state government.
Indeed, the state executive council, Exco, accepted the recommendations and adopted the White Paper at an emergency meeting on Monday, January 15.
Since the Ekiti State government made the pronouncement on Fayemi and Kolawole, the political atmosphere in the state has charged and reverberated across the country on the merit and legality of the whole matter.
Interestingly both parties believe they are on the right path.
On the decision to investigate financial activities of his predecessor, Fayose said: “We are doing what is right within the ambit of the law by appointing competent people for the assignment. We must be seen to be doing the right thing and it is not wrong to ask how the finances of the state have been appropriated within a given time and we are following due process.”
Besides, he argued: “The All Progressives Congress, APC, government says they are looking into this and that, even if you say they are biased, what can anyone do? I am part of the panel that sat for the inquiry. They submitted the report to me and I presented it to appropriate organ and I will do the same with this document. This is not personal in any way, we are only doing the right thing and following due process.
“The presidency appointed Ibrahim Magu and Prof. Mamoud and these people are doing their work. The federal government also appointed judges, does this mean that these appointees would not do the right things?”
Indeed, both Fayemi and Kolawole had refused to appear before the panel of inquiry, claiming that it was meant to witch-hunt them and thus, headed for court.
Reacting to the white paper submitted by the panel and the Ekiti State government’s pronouncement, Fayemi described the whole episode as a pre-meditated verdict and a joke. Through Yinka Oyebode, the minister said: “While 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 Fayemi’s public service record.
“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.
“It shall not stand. It is nothing but a joke taken too far, perhaps joke of the century.
“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 also ridiculous, as neither Governor Fayose nor his paid agents have 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…”
Besides, the former governor alleged that members of the panel were loyalists, associates and card-carrying members of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which Fayose belongs.
That notwithstanding, the standoff between the two political gladiators has provided a veritable ground for observers and legal minds to bare their minds on how to resolve the matter.
Femi Falana, SAN, a human rights lawyer, said Fayose’s ban of his predecessor from holding public office could not stand any legal test.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, January 16, in Lagos, Falana citing the case of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar against the Attorney-General of the federation, he recalled that “the Supreme Court held that only a court of law has the power to disqualify and ban a Nigerian citizen from holding public office in Nigeria. So, the apex court set aside his disqualification from holding public office via a White Paper, which was endorsed by the Federal Executive Council, FEC.
“A similar ban placed on Malam Nasiru El-Rufai by the House of Representatives was also quashed by the court. To that extent, the decision of the Ekiti State government to ban Dr. Kayode Fayemi from politics cannot stand the test of constitutional validity. If Dr. Fayemi challenges the ban in court, he is likely to have it quashed and set aside.”
That notwithstanding, Falana belives that Fayemi has a moral burden to clear himself of the allegations levelled against by the state government. He charged: “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.
“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.”
Without wasting any more time, Monday Ubani, a second vice-president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and human rights activist, advised Fayemi to urgently challenge the decision of the panel in court so that it would not affect him in the nearest future.
In an interview, Ubani said: “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.
“I see this ban as a political vendetta targeted against the rumoured ambition of Fayemi to take another shot at the governorship contest in Ekiti. It is clearly in bad taste. Fayemi is hereby advised to proceed against this alleged ban in a court of law. We hope the court in the land will grant him a reprieve.”
The NBA vice-president noted that there is need to always separate witch-hunting from attempts to make people account for alleged corruption while in office.
He added: “If the report of the proceedings at the commission of enquiry is anything to go by, then the White Paper must been based on some other proceedings that were held in secret.
“The beneficiary bank, which was involved in the deal, was reported to have cleared Fayemi. So, upon what evidence was Fayemi held liable? This is a big question that deserves a big answer.”
Indeed, Fayemi’s media aide alleged that the whole exercise was designed to rubbish the minister, arguing that the panel should have called the contractors in various projects being investigated to determine position of their contracts and if money was illegally paid to the former governor.
Political observers said the ban was pronounced to prevent Fayemi from joining the 2018 governorship race, as speculated being in many quarters. Although Fayemi is yet to declare intent to run in the governorship election slated for July 14, his foot soldiers seem to be working to draft him into the race.
Little wonder, Taiwo Olatunbosun, the publicity secretary of the APC in Ekiti State, cried out to appeal to the party supporters in the state to ignore the indictment. Olatunbosun argued: “It is now glaring that despite Fayose’s empty boasts daily that Dr. Fayemi is a paperweight politician who is not popular at home, the governor’s latest action has proved that the reverse is the case, as this barbaric action to halt the political career of a shining Ekiti star has shown that Fayemi is in league of nightmare Fayose has to contend with.”
But Lanre Ogunsuyi, commissioner for Information, Ekiti State, said the inquiry has nothing to do with politics. “Government views accountability and probity as hallmark of good governance. Therefore, the government decided to set up the judicial panel of inquiry in line with its law enacted in 2012. The government viewed seriously the report and it intends to carry out all the recommendations,” he said.
Be that as it may, it is obvious that whatever comes out of the face-off will somewhat have political implication for Ekiti State.
– Jan. 19, 2018 @ 10:03 GMT