Shaibu denies evading impeachment notice, Catholic church wades in

Felix Aikhojie
Felix Aikhojie

The Office of the Edo State Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, on Tuesday, denied that an impeachment notice was served on the deputy governor by the state House of Assembly.

It denied the allegation made by the lawmakers on Monday that Shaibu was evading service, leading to the lawmakers’ decision to publish the impeachment notice in a daily newspaper.

The state assembly last Wednesday commenced impeachment proceedings against Shaibu, accusing him of perjury and leaking the government’s secrets.

The impeachment move is believed to be the latest development in the rift between Shaibu and his principal, Governor Godwin Obaseki.

There had been an uneasy calm between the deputy governor and his principal since last year, when Shaibu declared his interest in joining this year’s Edo governorship race.

The Assembly directed its Clerk to serve Shaibu with the impeachment notice, saying he had seven days to respond.

However, the Assembly, on Monday, alleged that the Deputy Governor was evading service and therefore decided to serve him by substituted means, through a newspaper publication.

However, the deputy governor’s office denied the claim by the Assembly.

In a letter, dated March 12, addressed to the House of Assembly, Shaibu’s personal assistant, Charles Olubayo, chided the Speaker, Blessing Agbebaku, over the allegation of evading impeachment notice.

Olubayo said, “The Office of the Deputy Governor, Edo State, wishes to draw your attention to the inaccuracies and misleading information that emanated from the plenary session of Monday, March 11, 2024, wherein Mr. Speaker directed that the impeachment notice be served on the Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu, through newspaper publications, The Nigeria Observer, and other national dailies,’sequel to the refusal of the Deputy Governor to acknowledge the impeachment notice’.

“Mr. Speaker was quoted to have also stated at the said plenary that ‘The action became necessary because the Deputy Governor refused to

acknowledge an earlier impeachment notice sent to him through the Clerk of the House’.

“We wish to state categorically that no impeachment notice was ever served on the Deputy Governor, let alone refusing to acknowledge the impeachment notice.

“The Deputy Governor has since March 3, 2024, travelled out of Benin to Abuja and has not returned to Benin since the said March 3, 2024.

“The Clerk never saw the Deputy Governor, whether in the office, at home, or anywhere for that matter, since the said date; hence, we are surprised that the House resolved to publish the impeachment notice in the Observer and other national dailies.

“One, therefore, wonders where the Clerk or his appointee served him the impeachment notice, and he refused to acknowledge it.

“Neither the clerk nor any person sent an impeachment notice to the Deputy Governor, which he refused to acknowledge.

“It is therefore our prayer that Mr. Speaker corrects the impression created in the public as the outcome of Monday’s plenary to avoid misrepresentation in this all-important matter.”

Meanwhile, the Catholic Lawyers and six other groups in the Catholic Church joined the call on the  Assembly to drop the impeachment proceedings against Shaibu.

The groups presented a joint letter to the House Speaker, Blessing Agbebaku, describing the move to impeach Shaibu as “disrespect towards our Archbishop and the intervention of other respected religious and traditional leaders in the state.”

The seven groups are: Catholic Action Nigeria; Catholic Lawyers; Catholic Men Organisation of Nigeria; Catholic Women Organisation of Nigeria; Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria; Catholic Girls Organisation of Nigeria; and Catholic Laity Council of Nigeria.

Presenting the letter to the Speaker, Agbebaku, in the presence of some principal officers of the House, Steve Apologun, who is the Benin Provincial President of the CMO, said there was a need for peace in the state ahead of the September 21 governorship election.

In their letter, the groups urged the Edo lawmakers to take cognizance of how religious leaders, led by the Archbishop of Benin City, Most Rev. Augustine Akubeze, prevailed upon Shaibu last year to withdraw all court cases he filed to stop his anticipated impeachment.

They appealed for caution “to ensure that your legislative responsibilities are not perceived as a political witch-hunt against the deputy governor due to his political disagreement with the governor.”

“We call for a careful approach to this matter with a focus on dialogue and peace, rather than creating further tension in the state.

“We would like to draw your attention to the fact that our Chief Shepherd, His Grace, Most Revd Dr Augustine Akubeze, Catholic Archbishop of Benin City, has tirelessly worked towards promoting peace and reconciliation between His Excellency, the Governor, Godwin Obaseki, and his Deputy Governor, Philip Shaibu.

“As part of the reconciliation process initiated by our Archbishop, there was a mutual agreement for the deputy governor to withdraw the legal action that sought to halt the initial alleged impeachment process.

“As Catholic lay faithful and eligible voters, we are saddened by the current impeachment process, which is perceived by the public as a political witch-hunt. This perception reflects disrespect towards our Archbishop and the intervention of other respected religious and traditional leaders in the state.

“Therefore, we humbly request your intervention and alignment with the peace process initiated by our Archbishop and other respected leaders within and outside the state.

“As leaders, our commitment lies in promoting peaceful coexistence and good governance. Once again, we assure you and the well-meaning residents of Edo State that we will fulfil our responsibility in the upcoming gubernatorial election to educate, sensitise, and mobilise our lay faithful and other voters in Edo State on the importance of identifying desirable qualities in prospective candidates and the need to support anyone found with integrity and the ability to deliver on their promises, regardless of political, tribal, and religious affiliations.”

Responding, the Speaker said he was only a servant leader to the other 23 members of the House and he could not take any decision alone.

“Yes I am the head of this parliament, we are 24 in number, I am a servant to them all. It is the decision they take that I will follow,” the Speaker said.

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