A High Court In Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Has Dismissed Rotimi Amaechi’s Suit Challenging The Constitution Of A Judicial Commission Of Inquiry By Governor Nyesom Wike To Probe His Administration
A Rivers State High Court, presided over by Justice Simeon Amadi, has dismissed the suit filed by immediate past governor of the state, Rotimi Amaechi, challenging the constitution of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to probe the sale of state assets by his administration.
Delivering judgment yesterday on suit Number PHC/187/15, as filed by Amaechi, Justice Amadi declared that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was not established to investigate the personal activities of the former governor, but to investigate actions of his government as they affect the people of Rivers State.
He ruled that Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, by the provisions of the law, is empowered to establish the Judicial Commission.
According to him, there is no law preventing a state government from finding out how her resources were expended. He declared that Amaechi cannot disburse and expend funds of the Rivers State Government and turn around to claim that such powers belong to the National Assembly.
On the claim by Amaechi that the 30 days set aside for the sitting of the commission would deny him fair hearing; the court held that the days set aside has not breached Amaechi’s right to fair hearing.
The court also noted that the former governor has not filed a memorandum before the Commission and has not appeared before it, hence he cannot complain that he was not given fair hearing. Justice Amadi said that the 30 days sitting duration of the commission was not sacrosanct, hence it could be extended.
The court further held that Amaechi’s suit was speculative as it failed to prove injuries that he has suffered because of the setting up of the commission. Justice Amadi held that contrary to Amaechi’s claims, the terms of reference of the commission did not accuse him of any crime, neither is the former governor on trial. Justice Amadi declared: “The Judiciary is not only the last hope of the common man, but it is also the last hope of the mighty and movers and shakers of democracy.
“Those who by the benevolence of the judiciary got to power should resist the temptation to emasculate the judiciary”. Commenting on meaning of the judgment, Rivers State Attorney General, Emmanuel Aguma, said the commission of inquiry can now sit, pointing out that it will be fair to all parties. Aguma, who was also state counsel in the matter, said that the court decision has proved that a claimant cannot jump to court to stop the legitimate business of a Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
In her remarks, Counsel to Amaechi, Mrs., Winifred Enyinnaya, said Amaechi will appeal against the judgment. It will be recalled that Governor Wike, upon assumption of office, constituted a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the sale of key state assets by the previous administration. Former Governor Amaechi approached the court to stop the inquiry soon afterwards. Governor Wike, had in June, alleged before journalists, at an interactive forum in Abuja, that his predecessor encouraged the looting of resources of the state.
He alleged that Amaechi emptied accounts of the state such that he personally bought diesel, from his pocket, to power generators at Government House Port Harcourt on his first day at work. He also disclosed that 70 percent of the states power assets were sold by Amaechi for $302,400,000 adding that “the money was paid in December as at March this year, there was no single dollar. The Permanent Secretary denied knowledge of this transaction”.
“On the first day I assumed office, the Permanent Secretary, Government House told me that there was no diesel so, I had to use my personal money to purchase diesel for the generator. It was as bad as that”, he noted.
“You said the former governor said it is a witch-hunt and I say, witch hunt for what? Is this the first time a commission of inquiry was set up in Rivers state? When he set up judicial commission of inquiry were they all witch-hunts that he is now saying it is witch-hunt? “When he came in, he set up Truth and Reconciliation Commission; was that a witch-hunt? He set up commission of inquiry, headed by Justice Georgewill who is now in the Court of Appeal, after the crises in the House of Assembly; two weeks before he left office, he set up the Odinla Kalu Commission of Enquiry on Political Killings and gave them two, three weeks to make recommendations. Was he witch-hunting people? At what time did it become a witch-hunt?” Wike had asked.
A civil society group operating in the state, The Integrity Group, had also petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari, alleging that Amaechi mismanaged finances of the state.
In the petition dated July 31, 2014 and titled ‘corruption, criminal breach of trust, unlawful enrichment And Conversion of over N70 billion state resources by the former Governor Rotimi Amaechi and other state functionaries’, urged President Buhari to cause an investigation into allegation that Amaechi fraudulently sold the state power project and converted the proceed. The group put proceeds from the sale at N60.4billion.
The group also urged President Buhari to cause the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to investigate another allegation that Amaechi caused and “unlawful payment to, and fraudulent conversion of N4, 633, 440,000.00 by Clinoriv Specialist Hospital and Leisure Limited”.
– Our Reporter