From Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
The animosity between the Chief Judge of Ondo state, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu and the State Governor, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN, over the plot to unseat the former from office as Chief Judge has pitted the Governor against Mr. Jibrin Okutepa SAN, who described a government statement on an Abuja court ruling as a “childish display of adolescent behaviour.”
A lead lawyer to the Ondo Chief Judge, Okutepa, lashed out at Governor Akeredolu and the state government over their bitter comment against the Friday judgment of the federal high court in Abuja which barred the governor from taking any negative action against the Chief Judge.
Governor Akeredolu had in a reaction by his government to the court verdict described the suit by the Chief Judge as “an ego trip which the government refused participation “
The government reaction was contained in a statement signed by the state commissioner for Information, Mr Donald Ojogo.
Okutepa described the government position as most unfortunate and uncivilised, adding that it was contemptuous.
Okutepa’s press statement released on Saturday reads in part “My attention has been drawn to press statement said to have been issued by the Government of Ondo State on the judgment delivered by the Hon Mr Justice Eden Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja, in favour of the Hon the Chief Judge of Ondo State, Justice Oluwatoyin O. Akeredolu.
“In the state press statement titled:
“Re: Court Bars Ondo Govt From Probing CJ
SUIT WAS AN EGO TRIP WHICH THE GOVERNMENT REFUSED PARTICIPATION” and signed by one Donald Ojogo commissioner for information, it described the suit by CJ as an ego trip for which he claimed the government refused to participate.
“It is sad and unfortunate that the government of Ondo State could authorise such contemptuous statement to be issued against a judgment that was delivered after all the parties were served with hearing notices on many occasions and the government led by an eminent senior advocate did not deem it fit to respect the processes served on the government.
“As lawyer to the Hon CJ in the matter I consider the press statement as insulting to my person as it portrays me as accepting brief to take matter that was purely academic to court for judicial determination.
“It is important to remind the Ondo State Government that the press statement is certainly afterthought and face-saving measures to cover the plots that gave the Hon Chief Judge of Ondo State the cause of action which led his Lordship to brief me to go to Court.
“It is sad that the government of Ondo State can suffer memory loss of the reasons why the Hon CJ went to Court.
“Let me repeat again that the press statement is an afterthought and as face saving measures after the evil plot was denounced by proper judicial decision.
“In the first place the Government Ondo State and parties involved were duly served the originating Processes and hearing notices.
“If the government has respect for judicial process as it claims, it should have appeared in court and informed the court that the issues and concerns raised were not true or not being pursued by the government. Ondo State government did not do so.
“Secondly Ondo State Government forgot that legal letters were done to the Governor, State House of Assembly and the Attorney General of Ondo State on the matter.
“We must set record straight. It is appalling to see childish display of adolescent behaviour in the press statement issued on behalf of the government being led by learned gentleman of the highest distinction at the Bar like this.
“So sad. Perhaps I will need to draw the attention of Ondo State Government to the press Statement issued by the Hon the Attorney General of Ondo State on 18th February 2021 which led the Hon the CJ to brief me to go to court.
“This was widely reported as “ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ONDO STATE, SIR CHARLES TITILOYE HAS RELEASED HIS REPORT ON INVESTIGATION OF ALLEGATION AGAINST ONDO STATE CHIEF JUDGE AS CONTAINED IN THE VIDEO CLIP CIRCULATED ON SOCIAL MEDIA BY ONE OLUPELUMI FAGBOYEGUN.
“Judging from the above. one then wonders how the government of Ondo State which contemptuously refused to appear before the court to defend itself can resort to self help in the form of the press statement to say it did not envice the intention of removing the CJ and that the suit was an ego trip.
“Certainly as senior lawyer and one who sworn to uphold and defend Nigerian constitution I will not have accepted brief that was rooted in moot points”
The Thursday statement by the Ondo government, which drew the ire of Okutepa read: “The Ondo State Government, from the commencement of the said suit in question, did not consider it worthy of any legal efforts.
“It was vainly an ego pursuit as far as Government was concerned. In unambiguous terms, the suit was an unnecessary distraction for which no legal representation was made neither on behalf of the Attorney General nor the Government for the period it sufficed.
“The reasons behind the needless efforts to drag in the Executive Arm of the State Government, particularly Governor Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, into the matter are well noted.
“It must be stated however, that, Governor Akeredolu is not only a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; he is indeed a Life Bencher who had served as a member of the National Judicial Council.
“He is, therefore, better informed with the procedural processes relating to the removal of a serving Chief Judge of a State hence his directive that the State Government should not participate in the hearing of the needless suit filed by the Chief Judge.
“Simply put, the Executive Arm of the Ondo State Government led by Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, at no time had interest whatsoever in cutting short the tenure of the State CJ. If at all, the state government can only wish the CJ God’s infinite grace till August so as to accord her a deserving retirement honour as a jurist.”