In its last plenary session on Thursday, December 31, 2015, the Lagos House of Assembly invalidated the impeachment of Otunba Femi Pedro, the former deputy governor of Lagos state, who was impeached on May 10, 2007.
The House of Assembly in a resolution supported by 36 members of the 40 member Assembly said, the allegations for which Pedro was impeached were not connected to criminal charge. He could therefore be pardoned since he has shown remorse.
What’s your take on the Lagos House of Assembly reversing itself on the impeachment of Otunba Femi Pedro, the former deputy governor of the state?
I believe that it is the manifestation of the inconsistency of Lagos state government led by the All Progressives Congress (APC). If you recall the event that led to the impeachment of Mr. Femi Pedro, it was because he challenged the status quo and power that be. It was the same that befell Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele who was also impeached in the same manner.
It only shows that legislators in Lagos state lack independence. They lack integrity and have no voice of their own. They have become a rubber stamp in the hands of the ruling party and the hands of the executive. They have become a toothless bulldog. They are just a congregation of party loyalists who do the biddings of their godfathers.
I do not think any factor has changed between when he was illegally impeached and when he is being reinstated. It is just that he may have atoned for his alleged sins to his godfather. I believe that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is at the helms of affairs in Lagos and it is what he wants that is done on the floor of the Assembly. It is just the politics of godfathersim that we are seeing in Lagos state again.
Do you see anything unconstitutional in what the Assembly has done?
From the point of view of 1999 constitution, once the tenure has expired, he could only be reinstated by court of law. Within the time he had been impeached it was the Assembly that impeached him that has the power to reinstate him. He could not be reinstated by an Assembly that never confirmed him. It was that particular Assembly that confirmed him as deputy governor that has the power to impeach him. It is also that Assembly that has the power to reinstate him.
Once that Assembly that impeached him has been dissolved, that impeachment became permanent and could only have been reversed by a competent court of law. It was an illegal activity embarked upon by Lagos State House of Assembly. That impeachment died with that particular House that impeached him. It cannot be revived by another Assembly session.
But the Majority Leader of the House, Hon. Agunbiade, who is also a lawyer said the impeachment of Otunba Femi Pedro in 2007 was by a resolution of the House that the rules of the House allow a resolution of the House to be reversed by another resolution supported by two-third members. What is your take on this?
The point I am making is that a resolution passed by a previous Assembly goes with that Assembly. The second reason why it is illegal is that when the House of Assembly took the decision to impeach him, it could only reverse it within three months. Once the three months had gone, that is the end. There is a law called Public Officers Protection Law. That law stipulates that any decision taken by government or its agencies can only be challenged within three months. Really, the House of Assembly of Lagos state is just deceiving itself.
I am sure it did not take cognizance of the Public Officers Protection Law which makes it impossible to reverse any decision taken by government or its agencies after three months.
We also want to know whether he (Pedro) will be entitled to collect his benefits now that his impeachment has been reversed?
It depends on the resolution that was passed. May be the impeachment was only reversed for the purpose of records. But if it was reversed and backdated to the time he was impeached, then he may be claiming those salaries and allowances. That will be illegal in law. It will be totally illegal because the House of Assembly cannot backdate its decision to undo what was done by another session of the Assembly. The day that Assembly was dissolved, those decisions went with that House of Assembly.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Otunba Femi Pedro became the deputy governor of Lagos in January 2003, to complete the tenure of Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele who had to hurriedly resign her appointment because of the irreconcilable differences between her and the governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. She was eventually impeached. Otunba Femi Pedro came in from his position as Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of First Atlantic Bank through his friend and benefactor, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi.
Femi Pedro again was Bola Tinubu’s running mate in his second term which started in May 2003.
Trouble started between Tinubu and Pedro in 2007 when Pedro felt, as Tinubu’s deputy he should be the person to replace him in 2007. But Tinubu chose Babatunde Raji Fashola, his Chief of Staff instead.
Femi Pedro with others like Hakeem Gbajabiamila, Senator Tokunbo Afikuyomi, Jimi Agbaje and Chief Mrs. Oluremi Adikwu-Bakare left the party, Action Congress to contest the governorship election on other party platforms. Femi Pedro contested on the platform of Labour Party.
They all lost to Tinubu’s candidate, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), who eventually became the governor. But between April 14, 2007 and My 10, 2007, Pedro’s utterances against Tinubu and the Lagos state government were uncomplimentary and yet he was still part of the government.
In one of his press statements, he boasted that nobody could impeach him from office before the end of his tenure. In another, he said, Tinubu was planning to assassinate him. The assassination story and the boast that nobody could impeach him was what got the Assembly members angry and they started impeachment process against him.
In May 7, the then Chief Judge of Lagos state, Justice Ade Alabi, set up a seven man panel to look into the allegations against Pedro by the State House Assembly. Rather than appearing before the panel, Pedro sent his lawyers with his resignation letter.
But his letter of resignation was rejected by Tinubu on the ground that there was no notice of resignation. The House of Assembly also denied receiving any letter. This was on May 9, 2007.
The following day, May 10, 2007, barely two weeks to the end of his tenure as the deputy governor of Lagos state, Femi Pedro was impeached by a resolution of the House of Assembly supported by 33 members of the 40 member House of Assembly. That was the beginning of Pedro’s political trouble.
In 2010, he was back on the political arena. This time around, he dumped his Labour Party to join PDP but Chief Bode George, who was the lord of the manor in PDP then gave the govenorship ticket of the party to his candidate, Dr. Adegboyega Dosumu. Thus Pedro’s ambition to govern Lagos state bit the dust again.
It was the same 2011, when he lost his second bid to become the governor of Lagos state that he went to court to challenge his impeachment by the House of Assembly. He lost at the lower court and went to the Appellate Court.
While at the Appeal Court, he (Pedro) started a reconciliation move with Tinubu. The appearance of Tinubu at the wedding of Pedro’s son to Bella Naija on 2012, gave a lot of people the impression that a sort to reconciliation was going on between the two.
Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Olowo Eko omo erin jogun ola, was said to have spearheaded the reconciliation move. In 2013, we gathered that there was secret meeting between Tinubu and Pedro which was facilitated by Chief Bisi Akande and Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, the governor of Rivers state then who was also present at the meeting.
Shortly after that meeting, Pedro announced his movement to All Progressives Congress (APC). He was later appointed the Chairman of APC Registration Exercise Committee. In February 2015, Pedro wrote to the Lagos House of Assembly to reverse his impeachment. The Assembly told him he was still in court. He withdrew his case from court and brought the letter to the Assembly.
On July 2, 2015, the House of Assembly constituted a 8-man ad hoc committee headed by Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade the Majority Leader to look into Pedro’s request.
It was based on the report of this ad hoc committee that the Assembly took its decision on Thursday, December 31, 2015.
The committee recommended the invalidation of the impeachment on the ground that it was not connected to criminal charges and the fact that Pedro himself had shown remorse. The Speaker, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, said that the House was not absolving Pedro of the allegations but decided to pardon him for his remorsefulness.
- TOLANI ABATTI