My Humble Opinion on the Report on the Former Hon. Attorney-General of Ondo State in Respect of the Viral Video by One Olupelumi Fagboyegun against the Chief Judge of Ondo State
I have been availed a copy of the report issued by the former Honourable Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Ondo State, Sir. Charles Titiloye which he personally sent via a Whatsapp group to which I belong in respect of the viral video which was made public by one Olupelumi Fagboyegun against the person and office of the Chief Judge of Ondo State.
Congratulations would have been in order at this point to the Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN for the success of his first tenure and the commencement of the second term which I have been eagerly and excitedly looking forward to.
However, considering the cascading tumults and weighty allegations made against the Chief Judge of the State in the instant video which allegations seemed to have been intended to incite the general public against the confidence reposed in the Judiciary as an arm of government of that State and the person of the Chief Judge vis-a-vis the report of the former Honourable Attorney General of the State, I am left with no other option than to express my concern and consternation on the raison d’ etre of the hullabaloo and the erstwhile Attorney-General’s report.
In order not to throw out the baby with the bath water, as a Legal Practitioner, pro-democracy advocate who has clamored for the emancipation of the principle of the rule of law and good governance and also given the fact that my state of origin is at the vortex of this repartee, I have carefully considered the issue at hand I am compelled to lend my two cents viz-a-viz constitutional provisions and legal framework with regard thereto.
On the Rationale behind the former Hon. Attorney General’s Report
As a prefatory, it must be noted that the former Honourable Attorney General of Ondo State is a fellow comrade at arms who is also renowned for championing and advocating for the enthronement of the rule of law.
Without prejudice to the above, the facts of this case should be easily discernible from the court files. I find it altogether curious to note that the former Honourable Attorney General could have stated the full facts as revealed by the Court proceedings to enable the oublic have an informed opinion with respect to the allegations made by Mr Fagboyegun particularly as it affects the Chief Judge of the State. However, for reasons best known to him, he chose not to reveal same.
I am inclined, therefore, to raise the following inquisitions:
With respect to the former Honourable Attorney General, he could have explained to the public why the matter seemed delayed. He did point out that Mr Pelumi had never been detained which unless there is more to this than meets the eye should have cast a serious doubt on the fellow’s character as he copiously maintained in his ill-advised video that he had been in detention for three years!
What happened to his so-called travelling documents? Were they ever seized by the CJ or anyone at her behest or even by the court? Under what circumstances were they seized, if they were?
What occasioned the protraction of an otherwise summary matter?
Was any role played by the Honourable Chief Judge or was it the accused person who caused much of the delay? I have it on good authority that the accused jumped bail several times which would on the surface preclude a speedy trial of any case. It is also on record that the courts hardly sat in much of the Year 2020 due to the lockdown occasioned by the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic of that year.
These and many others are easily discernible from the records and barring mischief should have been made available to the public. I also wonder why the Ministry of Justice is feigning ignorance of the bare facts of the case.
Secondly, it is curious that in spite of the dissolution of the cabinet of the incumbent Executive of the State as widely reported in the afternoon of yesterday, the former Honourable Attorney General still proceeded to take some far reaching decisions as it affects the criminal matter in respect of Mr Fagboyegun. One cannot but wonder at the nolle prosequi he entered with regard to a matter he was supposed to be investigating and where he derived the authority to do so from given the fact that he was no longer the Attorney General at the time. The case of AG KADUNA STATE V. HASSAN (1985) LPELR-617(SC) wherein the Court held that the power to enter nolle prosequi can only be exercised by an incumbent Attorney General of a state or of the federation.
Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN is undoubtedly a man of no small means who from his undergraduate days and during his days as the President and a leader of the Bar fought against executive crass lawlessness and profligacy. However, one cannot tell if the nolle was entered to please the Governor where there are series of allegations that the man, a known staunch supporter of the Governor, has been known to have, sometime ago, waxed a musical record in honour of the Governor.
While I concede to the discretionary nature of the grant of a nolle, one wonders if same has been granted in the public interest given the fact that Mr. Pelumi’s conduct during trial makes entering that nolle not only unjustifiable but also undesirable.
Furthermore, it is also strange that the former Honourable Attorney-General would refer the matter to the House of Assembly. While conceding to the fact that the House can take petitions and invite persons for interrogations as prescribed by Section 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) but they clearly do not have the powers of the court to issue binding orders against any member of the Public. The only purpose this needless referral will serve would be to expose the Honourable Chief Judge to unwarranted public scrutiny when it is clear even from the sketchy and inchoate report of the erstwhile Attorney General that she has no interest in the matter save the fact that Mr Pelumi alleges that he is a son to her late father.
Moreover, one wonders, having entered an illegal nolle, what bit of the matter the former Honourable Attorney-General referred to the House of Assembly. And for what. Perhaps it was to determine the matter of the man’s paternity?
If it is true as one fears that the former Honourable Attorney General was referring the Honourable Chief Judge to the House for one form of censure or another, then he has clearly displayed a damning ignorance of the laws or rules regarding the discipline of any Judge. The Constitution is clear on the question of which body can discipline a Judge, yes, even a State Judge!
While the appointment of the Judge emanates from the Governor of a dtate upon the recommendation of the National Judicial Council with the confirmation by two- third majority of the State House of Assembly, it does not rest with a House of Assembly and most certainly not a Governor for that matter, to sit on the question of the discipline of any Judge. That role rests squarely with the National Judicial Council.
The provisions of Section 153 of the Constitution are very far-from being ambiguous.
The House of Assembly of the State cannot exercise disciplinary control touching the discipline of the Chief Judge of the State or other Judicial Officers in the State. This extant position of law has been given judicial imprimatur by the Supreme Court in plethora of authorities including the case of ELELU-HABEEB & ANOR V. AG FEDERATION & ORS (2012) LPELR-15515(SC).
It should be noted that I have no personal stake in this matter and if there appears to be any, it is to ensure the success of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu SAN in delivering good governance and conducive atmosphere to the government and the people of the State as well as to represent the interest of the people of the State for the next four years.
Given the circumstance of the case, it is expected that every patriots’ interests must revolve around the need to protect the interest of justice and to prevent a state of executive lawlessness in a democratic society.
On my part as it has been my practice, I reiterate my resolve to ensure that this current imbroglio is resolved in accordance with the law without unecessary damage to anyone’s integrity and reputation.
Dr. Olukayode Ajulo
Castle of Law, Maitama,
19th February, 2021