A High Court sitting in Port Harcourt has dismissed a suit instituted by former Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Amaechi, seeking to stop Governor Nyesom Wike from probing his administration.
Wike had on June 19 inaugurated a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the sale of Omoku 150 MW Gas Turbine, Afam 360 MW Gas Turbine, Trans-Amadi 136 MW Gas Turbine and Eleme 75 MW Gas Turbine.
The commission of inquiry was also asked to investigate the mono-rail project and the sale of the Olympia Hotel by the Amaechi administration.
Other areas for the commission of inquiry to investigate include “the non-execution of the contract for the construction of the Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte Specialist Hospital after the payment of the sum of $39,200,000million to the supposed contractor; the disbursement or use by the state Ministry of Agriculture of the sum of N2 billion Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Funds, and the withdrawal and expenditure of the accrued N96 billion from the state reserve fund without compliance with the state reserve fund law No. 2 of 2008.”
But Amaechi, in suit number PHC/187/15, approached the High Court in Port Harcourt to stop the judicial commission of inquiry on grounds that it was a witch-hunt and that he would not get fair hearing since the commission had only 30 days to conclude its sitting.
He also said the inauguration of the judicial commission of inquiry by Wike was wrong as the Commissions of Inquiry Law of the state (Cap 30 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999) was defective as it tried to appropriate the powers of courts.
Delivering judgment on the suit yesterday, the presiding judge, Justice Simeon Amadi, declared that the Judicial Commission of Inquiry was not established to investigate the personal activities of the former governor but to investigate previous actions of government as they affect the people of the state.
He ruled that 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 Amaechi cannot disburse and expend funds of the Rivers State Government and turn around to claim that powers to investigate such matters belong to the National Assembly.
The judge also said Amaechi could not claim that the state Commissions of Inquiry Law was defective when he (Amaechi), during his tenure as governor, also used the same law to set up both administrative and judicial commissions of inquiry.
On the claim by the former governor that the 30 days set aside for the sitting of the judicial commission of inquiry would deny him fair hearing, the court held the days set aside has not breached Amaechi’s right to fair hearing as the number of days was not sacrosanct.
He said the former governor failed to show a reasonable cause of action that his right to fair hearing would be breached by the commission.
The court noted that the former governor has not filed a memorandum before the commission and has not appeared before it, hence it was premature for him to claim that he would not be given fair hearing.
The court further held that the suit by Amaechi was speculative as he failed to prove the injuries that he has suffered because of the setting up of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.
The presiding judge held that contrary to Amaechi’s claims, the terms of reference of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry did not accuse the former governor of crime; neither did it state that the former governor was on trial.
He 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.
In his reaction, the state Attorney General, Emmanuel Aguma, hailed the judgment and said the commission of inquiry could now continue with its assignment.
According to him, “What happened today is that the judge delivered judgment in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was also in accord with the dispensation of good governance of the people. It has protected the rights of the governed to know what has happened to their common wealth. To that extent, I wish to commend the judgment of his lordship.
“Going forward, we expect the commission to sit; to be fair; and make recommendations to government at the appropriate time. We expect government to sit on those recommendations and produce a white paper based on the wisdom of government and governance.”
But counsel to Amaechi, Mrs. Winifred Enyinnaya, said her client would appeal against the judgment.
“Judgment has been entered, but we believe this is not the last court. There are still Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. As it stands, we are going to file our processes and we are going to challenge the judgment of the High Court. “We are going to challenge the entire judgment. It is for the appeal court to decide whether our suit was speculative or not. We believe it is not: we cannot stand by and wait for something to happen before we take an action,” she said.
Meanwhile, Amaechi has refuted the allegation by Wike that he left an empty treasury.
Wike had consistently maintained that he met a completely empty treasury when he took over as governor.
But Amaechi, while responding to Wike’s spokesman, Opunabo Inko-Tariah, on why the governor took a total of N30billion bank loans from Zenith and Access Banks on 95.1FM, a radio station in Port Harcourt last Wednesday, refuted the claim, saying he left billions of naira in cash and economic assets for the state.
In a statement released by his media office yesterday, the former governor revealed that a total of N7.5billion cash were left behind as balances in the state Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) account with Skye Bank, FAAC account with Zenith Bank, balances with Access Bank and funds in the state reserve fund account in First Bank.
“This is besides other balances in the state Government House account with Zenith Bank and other government MDA accounts, like the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). By the time you pull all these together, we are looking at readily available cash in the region of eight to N10 billion left for the Wike administration.”
“It is also pertinent to point out here that former governor Amaechi also left economic assets worth tens of billions of naira for the state. Just like cash, the assets store value. These assets that are scattered in diverse sectors of the economy were developed or built or procured with revenue that accrued to the state during Amaechi’s tenure. The assets belong to Rivers State, not Amaechi. Some of these assets are presently yielding revenue to the state coffers, and many can be easily and readily converted to cash, if the state so desires.
“It is therefore disingenuous and fraudulent for Wike to claim that Amaechi left an empty treasury in his bid to justify the N30billion loans he collected under 30 days in office. Rather than this puerile and silly distraction of always pointing accusing fingers at Amaechi, Wike should come out to explain to Rivers people what he took the loans for, account for and justify every kobo that has been spent from the loans,” the statement concluded.