The Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, has upheld the legality of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry established by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, to probe the sale of valued asset by the immediate past administration of Chibuike Amaechi in the state.
The Appeal Court in a lead judgment by Justice O. F. Omoleye also held that the Rivers State House of Assembly has the power to make the Commission of Inquiry Law (CAP 30) under which Governor Wike established the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Delivering judgment on Suit Number CA/PH/342/2015, the court in a unanimous decision dismissed the appeal filed by the former governor, Mr. Amaechi, challenging the constitution of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
The court held that Justice Simeon Amadi of the Rivers State High Court was right when he ruled that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry had the power to sit and make recommendations.
The Court of Appeal ruled that anybody who holds public office should be ready to be accountable to the people, even after leaving office.
The Appeal Court, however, resolved that Mr. Amaechi has the locus standi to file the suit, since it had to probe his administration.
Addressing journalists after the judgment, Dejo Laminkara, counsel to the Rivers State Governor, said that the Appeal Court by its decision stressed that the law for the establishment of Judicial Commission of Inquiry remains valid.
Also speaking, the Attorney-General of Rivers State, Emmanuel Aguma, stated that the implication of the judgment was that the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry are valid and can be implemented.
He expressed satisfaction that the Court of Appeal held that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was validly constituted.
The Court of Appeal Panel that ruled on the matter include Justice O. F. Omoleye (presiding), Justice J. S. Abiriyi, and Justice S. T. Husaini.
The judgment lasted for 3 hours and 30 minutes.
It will be recalled that Justice Simeon Amadi of the Rivers State High Court in 2015 dismissed the suit filed by Mr. Amaechi challenging the constitution of the Justice Omereji – led Judicial Commission of Inquiry by Governor Nyesom Wike to probe the sale of state asset by the immediate past administration.
Delivering judgment on Suit Number PHC/187/15 filed by Mr. Amaechi, Justice Amadi declared that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was not established to investigate the personal activities of the former governor, but set up to investigate previous actions of government as they affect the people of Rivers State.
He ruled that Governor Nyesom Wike by the provisions of the law is empowered to establish the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate previous actions of government.
According to him, there is no law preventing a state government from finding out how her resources were expended.
He declared that former Governor Rotimi 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 former Governor Amaechi that the 30 days set aside for the sitting of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry will deny him fair hearing, the court held the days set aside had not breached Mr. Amaechi’s right to fair hearing.
The court 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 set aside is not sacrosanct, hence it could be extended.
The court further held that the suit by Mr. Amaechi is speculative as he failed to prove the injuries that he has suffered because of the setting up of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
Justice Amadi held that contrary to Mr. Amaechi’s claims, the terms of reference of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry did not accuse the former governor of 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”.