The battle by the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Jude Agbaso came to an end yesterday as the Imo State House of Assembly impeached him.
The impeachment motion, which was moved by the Majority Leader of the House, Adaku Ihuoma (Ahiazu Mbaise Constituency) and seconded by the Minority Leader, Pat Ekeji (Aboh Mbaise) won the support of 23 out of the 27 members of the House and ruled in its favour by the Speaker, Benjamin Uwajumogu.
It was based on the decision of a seven-man probe panel inaugurated by the Chief Judge, Justice Benjamin Njemanze, to continue with the investigation of the fraud allegation against Agbaso.
The Chief of Staff to Governor Rochas Okorocha, Eze Madumere, was cleared as the new deputy governor, following a letter of nomination forwarded to the House by the governor.
There was tension within the assembly complex as roads leading to the premises were cordoned off by mobile policemen.
Agbaso could not be reached as calls to his mobile phone were not answered.
He had earlier snubbed the seven-man probe panel as his lawyer, Emperor Iwuala, Agbaso had submitted a panel saying the panel was only illegally constituted and unlawfully inaugurated by the Chief Judge.
The letter also said two law suits on the impeachment proceedings were still in court.
The letter reads: “Though I have not been served any summons as stipulated by law, I wish to draw your attention to the pendency of two law suits instituted by me at the Imo State High Court, Owerri Judicial Division, touching and concerning the purported impeachment proceedings against me.
“From the foregoing, it is clear that I am not only challenging the purported steps or actions leading to the constitution of your panel but also challenging the appointment/constitution of your panel by the chief judge.
“Since we are in a constitutional democracy, all activities and or proceedings of your panel ought to automatically terminate or be suspended as a mark of respect to the Imo State High Court before which the aforesaid suits are pending.
“Furthermore, since the matters you have been directed to investigate are subjudice, your panel should respect the pendency of these suits, allow the law to take its course and or allow the legal and judicial processes to run their full courses.
“Doing otherwise will be tantamount to pre-empting the decision of the high court in the two pending suits.”
The panel was also informed that a witness, Joseph Dina, who was summoned with Agbaso and who is also the MD of JPROS International Nig. Ltd, the construction company in the centre of the alleged fraud, was abducted earlier in the morning.
A lawyer, who appeared on his behalf, Giles Ugwunweze, said: “My client could not make it to the panel because he was taken away by gunmen this morning.
“His whereabouts is yet unknown but the panel can rely on his written statement to proceed.”
The House’s counsel, Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), urged the panel to overrule Agbaso’s letter and continue with the proceeding.
He said the panel was not joined in any of the two suits cited in the letter.
Akintola said one of the suits has been dismissed by the high court for lack of jurisdiction.
The panel chairman, Justice Godday Emeka Ihekire, said the panel was proceeding because the letter of the deputy governor lacked merit.
Agbaso’s family has hired forensic experts to trace the alleged bribery money purportedly paid to him while his elder brother, Martin, has petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), State Security Services (SSS) and the police to investigate the allegation.
He said: “The Agbaso family has hired a team of professional investigators to unravel the truth. The findings of the team are revealing and astonishing.”
He said the alleged bribe had been traced by forensic experts to banks in Lebanon and Dubai, stressing that Dina never paid any money into the deputy governor’s account and that he was not associated with the GTBank and UBA accounts into which the N458 million was paid.
The elder Agbaso alleged that the money had been traced to the accounts of three companies, one of which has an aide to Governor Okorocha as one of the directors.
Martin said the House Committee failed to identify the directors, subscribers and signatories to the bank accounts, into which the bribe was allegedly paid.
“My brother, the deputy governor, is being vilified, harassed and humiliated for an offence he knows nothing about.
“My brother is innocent. He is not in a position to receive any bribe. My brother has no role in contract award.
“We have forwarded petitions to the appropriate authorities for investigation.
“They thought they could intimidate my brother to resign. Nigerians cannot be taken for a ride again. They have the power to impeach the deputy governor, but they don’t have any power to dent the image of our family. What is important to us is to protect the family name.”