The Federal High Court in Abuja has granted an application by the Deputy Governor of Imo State, Eze Madumere, to halt the impeachment process against him by the state House of Assembly.
The House on Tuesday set up a six-member committee headed by Kennedy Ibe, member representing Obowo Local Government Area, to probe allegations of misconduct against Mr Madumere and report back to it within seven days.
But surprisingly, the committee submitted its report about 48 hours later on Thursday, wherein it concluded that Mr Madumere has a case to answer.
The House subsequently on Thursday served a notice of impeachment on the deputy governor asking him to defend himself against the allegations against him.
But Mr Madumere said he was not properly served the notice, after one of his aides had on Wednesday refuted the allegations as baseless.
The deputy governor thereafter dragged the lawmakers and the state chief judge before the court in Abuja.
According to court papers made available to PREMIUM TIMES by his counsel, Johnmary Jideobi, the trial judge gave an order that could be interpreted to mean halting the removal process pending determination of the suit by Mr Madumere.
The Judge, O .A Musa, further granted the applicant leave to serve the processes in the suit on the defendants.
“Parties are to maintain the status quo pending the hearing of the motion on notice,” the court directed.
Maintaining status quo is often interpreted by lawyers to mean keeping the situation as it was before the case was filed. In this case, according to Mr Jideobi, ensuring the deputy governor remains in office until the court case is determined.
“Any party affected by this order may apply to set it aside for good cause,” the judge directed.
“Parties are to file a written argument addressing this court on its jurisdiction to entertain the instant suit.
“Motion on notice is adjourned to November 27,” he said.
The impeachment plot has been brewing for some time and is widely interpreted as a continuation of the battle for 2019 between the governor and his deputy.
This arose from opposition by Mr Madumere to an alleged plan by Governor Rochas Okorocha to have his in-law succeed him in office.
Mr Madumere, who is also interested in the governorship seat, later joined camp with opponents of the governor in their All Progressives Congress in the state.
They held parallel congresses to wrest control of the APC from Mr Okorocha in the state and produced party leaders that were recognised by the former national leadership of the party. But a court has since voided the congresses and the governor appears poised to regain control of the party in the state.
Loyalists of Mr Okorocha are also believed to have a majority in the state Assembly.
Apparently to expand that majority, the House last month suspended four lawmakers viewed as loyal to the deputy governor and standing against his impeachment plot.
Another lawmaker, representing Oru West LGA, Donatus Onuigwe, who opposed the impeachment proceedings during Tuesday’s plenary, was also suspended by the House.