An Osun state serving judge, Justice Folahanmi Oloyede has reacted to calls initiated by two foremost Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), Chief Folake Solanke and Professor Itse Sagay for her to be expelled by the National Judicial Council (NJC)from the Bench for disagreeing with her appointor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
It will be recalled that Justice Oloyede had petitioned the Osun State House of Assembly over Aregbesola’s financial recklessness in the state and called for his impeachment.
Reacting through her lawyer, Mr Lanre Ogunlesi, Justice Oloyede said “as a citizen of Nigeria, she is entitled to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the constitution.”
According to Ogunlesi, “Justice Oloyede has not erred or committed any breach of law in writing a petition against Governor Aregbesola. Assuming one third of the lawmakers in Osun State House of Assembly votes in favour of the petition, the matter can never come before Justice Oloyede, who is the petitioner. It is only the Chief Judge of the state that can set up panel over it.
“We have gone through the judicial code of conduct and Justice Oloyede has not violated any section of it by her action. So, I don’t think both Solanke and Sagay are right over their position on this matter.”
Both Solanke and Sagay had, in the statement, demanded the sack of Justice Oloyede, saying her involvement showed she was political in the matter.
“We note with deep consternation and concern for the dignity and sanctity of the judiciary, the petition recently sent by Justice Folahanmi Oloyede to the Osun State House of Assembly, for the impeachment and removal from office, of Mr Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun State.
“We are disturbed by the source of this petition because it reveals the embarrassing and gross ignorance of the judge regarding the process for the impeachment of governors. We are also disturbed by this apparently reckless descent of a judicial officer into the murky waters of partisan politics.
“Justice Oloyede is clearly not a member of the Osun State House of Assembly. She is not even a member of a civil society organisation. She is, in fact, a member of the judiciary, the third arm of government conferred with the responsibility of the interpretation of laws, including the constitution and the issuing of orders, judgments and sentences.
“Indeed, it is the duty of someone in Justice Oloyede’s position to preside over a case for the determination of the issue, whether a purported removal of a governor by impeachment is valid or not.
“It is, therefore, a cause for great embarrassment and shame that a judge of the High Court is ignorant of the fact that she cannot initiate impeachment proceedings against the governor. This raises a question whether she is fit to hold the office to which she has been appointed.
“From what has been stated above, it is quite obvious that the Osun State House of Assembly acted in gross error in entertaining Justice Oloyede’s petition. That petition is an illegal document which should have been disregarded with contempt by the House.
“By setting up a committee to investigate the allegations in the so-called petition, the House itself was displaying its ignorance of the impeachment process.
“Even more fundamental is the question whether a judicial officer should be publicly engaged in a bitter public confrontation with any other arm of government, particularly the executive arm of government headed by the target of her tirade, the governor, who appointed her into office.
“Specifically, is a judge permitted to make public political comments and engage in public diatribes against the government and the governor of the state in which he or she is serving?
“The code of conduct for judicial officers is replete with provisions requiring a judicial officer to act with dignity, decorum and a high standard of conduct.
“The preamble of the code, for example, provides that a judicial officer should actively participate in establishing, maintaining, enforcing and himself observing a high standard of conduct, so that the integrity and respect for the independence of the judiciary may be preserved,” the statement read.