By Tunde Oyekola in Osogbo
The Osun State Judicial Service Commission has queried a judge of the state High Court, Justice Folahanmi Oloyede, asking her to confirm the authenticity of her petition and to substantiate her allegations against Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
In the petition, the judge had accused the governor of financial recklessness and demanded his probe and possible impeachment from office.
Also, the state House of Assembly, which had said it was going to investigate the allegation and had asked Governor Aregbesola to respond, has written the state Chief Judge, Justice Adepele Ojo, demanding the status of Justice Oloyede.
The assembly Speaker, Hon. Najeem Salaam, had in a statement on Thursday said the House would invite Justice Oloyede to come and defend the claims in the petition.
He had also said the Chief Judge would be asked to verify the judge’s status.
WESTERN POST learnt at the weekend that the CJ, upon receipt of the letter from the lawmakers, had written another letter to Justice Oloyede to confirm if she was the author of the petition or not.
A very reliable source said Justice Oloyede was asked to respond to the query by the Chief Judge within 72 hours.
Another source close to the state judiciary, who pleaded for anonymity, told WP that although the news of Justice Oloyede’s petition came as a rude shock to some judges, some other judges were privy to it before it became public knowledge.
The state Assembly had resolved to invite Justice Oloyede to come and substantiate her claims on the allegations made against Governor Aragbesola.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Mr. Goke Butika, while responding to questions from WESTERN POST at the weekend, confirmed that Justice Oloyede would appear before the Assembly when it resumes sitting.
According to Butika, “Justice Oloyede will be invited to the Assembly to give details on her claims when the House resumes. But the Assembly is not in a hurry to host the judge. I want to tell you that she will appear as soon as the House resumes sitting, but I don’t have the date that the Assembly will resume with me now.”
Details of Justice Oloyede’s petition are yet unclear but she had accused Governor Aregbesola of financial recklessness.
The judge petitioned the assembly calling for the impeachment of the governor.
Aregbesola’s arch rival, Senator Iyiola Omisore, former PDP governorship candidate in the state, had earlier made similar calls.
Osun is one of the 23 states where workers are being owed salaries in what has become a past time in Nigerian public and private sector.
Meanwhile, the Assembly has asked Governor Aregbesola to forward his response on the allegations raised by Justice Oloyede, having made a copy of the petition available to him on Wednesday by the Office of the Speaker.
In the letter attached to the petition sent to the governor, the parliament demanded comments on the content of petition without delay.
The Speaker said: “The onus of proof lies on the petitioner who has expressed her readiness to defend her allegations before the parliamentarians, while Gov. Aregbesola’s response would also be awaited for the sake of fair hearing”.
Speaker Salaam noted that the legislature had elected to give Justice Oloyede’s petition a critical attention, because she is a serving judge in the state, and justice demands that her allegations be given a look, “for she holds a prime position in the judiciary, an arm of government in the state”.
Speaker Salaam then appealed to the opposition and critics of the government to always channel their grievances peacefully, saying the way and manner some people were blackmailing the state over the delayed salaries in the media did not speak well, for if the delayed salary matter is settled, the affliction of the false image would still be there.
He said the state parliament was more than ready to interface between the people and the government at all time without compromising the independence of the legislature as guaranteed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
However, Speaker Salaam asserted that the parliament under his watch would not be stampeded into on any issue before it, reiterating that thoroughness would be deployed into the facts presented without prejudice, for the House of Assembly is a shrine of democracy, where democratic value and ethos must be upheld.
He said: “Osun is our state, she is our ancestral home and we all have a duty to protect her name and promote harmonious relationship and peaceful coexistence. Yes, we have challenges in our nation, and our state is not immuned from the hydra-headed challenges, but with the coordinated responses of the government at all levels, as it is ongoing, those challenges would soon be history”.
In another development, the House on Thursday received another letter calling for a probe of the governor.
The letter was written by members of the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ), a rights group.
The Deputy Chief Whip of the assembly, Adeyemi Taiwo, said the letter would be passed to the Speaker, Mr. Najeem Salaam.
He said the lawmakers are also feeling the pains of the workers over the issue of unpaid salaries and assured that measures are being taken to resolve the matter.
And another group, the Pan -Yoruba group, Oodua Nationalist Coalition (ONAC), on its part called on Justice Oloyede to resign from the judiciary in the state.
ONAC, which is a coalition of several pan-Yoruba groups said since the judge was ready to defend the allegations made against Governor Aregbesola, it is logical for the petitioner to resign from the bench for her to be able to defend her allegations without ‘institutional bias.’
Making the call in a statement issued in Lagos and signed by the Deputy Chairman, Adeyemi Atiba, ONAC said the allegations raised by the judge would have full judicial and moral weight if only she resigns to defend those allegations in court.
ONAC said: “We urge you, Justice Oloyede to resign. These are serious legal and moral issues involved in the allegations raised by the judge. The best thing for her is to resign. Her resignation from the bench is necessary because we do not expect her to be a member of the same judicial institution that is expected to hear the allegations she has raised.
“She cannot be a sitting judge at the same time giving evidence in any court of competent jurisdiction or panel that the House of Assembly may wish to constitute”.