The suit filed by activist lawyer, Femi Emodamori, at a High Court in Akure, challenging the continued stay in office of the Acting Chief Judge of Ondo State, Tayo Osoba, suffered a setback on Thursday following a confusion over the legal representation for Mr. Osoba.
The case for determination was whether the chief judge could continue in office in acting capacity or be reappointed after the expiration of the three months as Acting Chief Judge with respect to Section 271(4) and (5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
“If the office of the Chief Judge of a State is vacant or if the person holding the office is for any reason unable to perform the functions of the office, then, until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the functions of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor shall appoint the most senior Judge of the High Court to perform those functions,” the section states.
“(Except on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council an appointment pursuant to subsection (4) of this section shall cease to have effect after the expiration of 3 months from the date of such appointment, and the Governor shall not re-appoint a person whose appointment has lapsed.”
On the strength of Section 271(4) and (5), Mr. Emodamori, is asking the judge to step aside or be removed since his tenure as acting CJ had expired and the extension of the three months provision was not extended before the expiration of the period.
Mr. Emodamori further seeks a declaration that, based on the provisions of Section 271(5) of the 1999 Constitution, an extension of the three months within which Justice Osoba can perform the functions of the Acting Chief Judge of Ondo State ought to have been made before the expiration of the three-month period and not afterwards.
The suit had the Acting Chief Judge as first defendant, while Governor Rotimi Akeredolu and the Ondo State House of Assembly were joined as second and third defendants respectively.
However, when the case came up for hearing on Thursday, a counsel from Dayo Akinlaja’s chambers, Genevieve Okoye, announced her appearance for the defendant, against an earlier stated appearance by Batife Philips from the Ministry of Justice.
Mr. Emodamori, who appeared in person, rejected the new representation, arguing that there was no formal application stating a change of counsel for the defendant.
He also argued that the memo of appearance from Dayo Akinlaja’s chamber was a dead document having being filed out of time.
He argued that for Mr. Akinlaja to have assumed legal representation for the defendant when the time had elapsed, an application for an extension of time should have been filed with the attendant penalties paid before his representation could be accepted.
But Ms. Okoye argued that the application to assume legal representation for Justice Osoba was filled within time.
Since Mr. Emodamori’s objections were taken orally, Ms. Okoye insisted that he should come before the court formally, a demand obliged by the Mr. Emodamori.
The presiding judge, Aderemi Adegoroye, emphasised the need to give the case a speedy hearing in order not to be overtaken by events, and adjourned the case to June 16.