‘Why we reversed Femi Pedro’s impeachment’’ – Hon. S.O.B Agunbiade, Majority Leader,
Lagos House of Assembly
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.
ENCOMIUM Weekly met with Hon. Sanai Agunbiade, who, aside being the Majority Leader of the Assembly, was also the chairman, house ad hoc committee that looked into Otunba Femi Pedro’s case.
He threw light on why the Assembly decided to reverse itself on the impeachment matter…
As the Chairman of the House Ad hoc Committee that invalidated the impeachment of Otunba Femi Pedro, the former deputy governor of Lagos State, what’s your reaction to PDP spokesperson in Lagos state, Mr. Taofiki Gani, that the House is acting out Asiwaju
Tinubu’s script. That the House of Assembly should have done this same thing to Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akele?
I expect the PDP, Publicity Secretary, Gani to know that as a lawyer, no court in Nigeria is a father Christmas. You do not get what you don’t ask from the court of law.
If you don’ go to the court of law for redress, the court of law wouldn’t invite you for redress. The court of law takes into account what is before it.
Even the scripture says, knock and the door shall be opened. Ask and you shall be given. So, Otunba Femi Pedro wrote to the House of Assembly in February, asking the House of Assembly to look into his impeachment.
What year was this?
February 2015. The House of Assembly debated it on the floor whether or not he should be entertained. What he did was to invite the House of Assembly into arbitration on the matter.
It was his (Pedro) own letter that we saw. It was his letter that was deliberated upon at the plenary session. It was upon his request that the House set up an ad hoc committee of which I happened to the chairman.
We looked into the matter. We invited people. We invited honourable members of the Fifth Assembly (2003-2007). We invited Femi Pedro. He came here. It was based on these meetings that the committee made recommendations to the House of Assembly.
Gani (PDP Publicity Secretary), as a lawyer should know that no arbiter will take up a matter that is not before it. Pedro came with a letter and we attended to him.
The question Gani should be asked is this: Is he aware of any move by the person he is advocating for?
Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akelere?
I don’t know who is he is advocating for. Gani should not be faulting everything that the House of Assembly or the government of Lagos state does. He should be a very pragmatic critic. He should talk with facts and figures. Not just talking because you are playing to the gallery.
Did Bucknor ever approach us (House of Assembly)? We only acted on what we saw.
Has there been a precedent of reversing someone’s impeachment?
We have had different cases. But most times the impeachment was usually on cases that border on financial misappropriation or where the person was indicted by the court.
But in this case (Femi Pedro), what we discovered is that the reasons for his removal was insubordination and flagrant disobedience to the office of the governor. What the constitution says is that the governor or the deputy governor can be removed for gross misconduct.
What constitutes misconduct is the breach of the constitution and anything in the wisdom of the Assembly that is deemed to be misconduct.
Looking at what happened then, the Assembly discovered that the deputy governor was at fault. He didn’t take directive from the governor. That was a breach of the constitution. The constitution says the deputy governor should take directive from the governor.
They discovered, to some extent he was no longer loyal to his oath of office and to the party. Based on this, the 5th Assembly impeached him.
After the impeachment, he (Pedro) was in court. The court held that the impeachment was okay. He went on appeal and the appeal continued to drag on. At the time he came to the House of Assembly, the appeal was still pending.
When he (Pedro) came before the House of Assembly, we saw that he was completely remorseful. We discovered that the man is still in the party. He has been doing a lot of things for the party. So, he is still a party man. He regretted what he did and told the House to come in. We (House of Assembly) said we cannot come in because you are in court. He promised to withdraw the matter from the court.
He filed a notice of withdrawal and he came to the House of Assembly, served the House of Assembly with the notice of withdrawal.
We called the honourable members of the Fifth Assembly and they corroborated the reasons for which he was impeached. So, he was not impeached for any criminal activity. He was not tried by any court of law and found wanting in personality and integrity. What happened then was a friction. Of course, at that time, the House was right for doing what they did then. But the man has come to say what I did was wrong.
He was removed by the resolution of the House, passed by 34 members.
But the rules of the House say that the resolution passed by the House of Assembly can be reversed by another resolution signed by at least two third of its members. That means that a resolution passed by the House of Assembly can be reversed.
Based on this, we looked at it and the House recommended that we can, because of the circumstances reverse it. The man is now remorseful. The man is now within the party. The man is now working for the party. It was a resolution that impeached him, we could pass a resolution to reverse that.
Most especially the tenure for which he was elected had gone. He cannot be reinstated in office because the tenure had gone. But to remove the stigma of impeachment and to show to the whole world that this man can be trusted with political and administrative office. That is what the House has done.
Gani has not faulted this. What he (Gani) is saying is that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. But are the goose and the gander saying this same thing.
If you want something, you must ask for it. Pedro asked for it and we gave it to him. But we did not just give to him whimsically. To the best of our knowledge, we looked into available legislation and we were careful in what we did. We discovered what we did is in good faith.
The House feels that impeachment starts with the House and ends with the House. The man has applied to the House and the House that impeached him looked into his case and reviewed his case.
Does this invalidation of his impeachment also restore all his benefits as a former deputy governor?
What we have done is reversal of his impeachment. What will happen subsequently will be administrative decisions and that administrative decision does not lie with the legislative. It lies with the executive.
As far as we are concerned, what he (Pedro) requested us to do for him, we have done. We did it not whimsically. We did it out of conviction.
- TOLANI ABATTI