An Imo State High Court presided over by Justice S. I. Opara has nullified the impeachment of the former Deputy Governor of the state, Jude Agbaso, and ordered the restoration of all his rights and benefits from the time of his removal to the period that his tenure elapsed.
The court, in a brief consent judgment, on Monday quashed what was popularly regarded as “J-Pross Contract Impeachment” that generated public outrage in 2013.
Agbaso was impeached on March 28, 2013 by the State House of Assembly following the recommendation of the seven-man impeachment panel set up by then state Chief Judge, Justice Benjamin Njemanze, which investigated the allegations of gross misconduct levelled against him by then Governor Rochas Okorocha.
The former deputy governor was accused of acts of grave corruption, including the demand of a bribe of N458 million from a contractor, J-Pross Construction Company and a bottle of Red Label Wine.
Mr. Agbaso had filed a suit asking a high court judge to bar the legislators from acting to impeach him, arguing that he was a victim of political intrigue and blackmail. The court refused to intervene, leaving the room open for the law makers to send Mr. Agbaso packing.
After the impeachment, Agbaso also approached the court to quash the impeachment and reinstate him back to his seat, but could not achieve that before the end of his tenure.
He continued seeking redress in the courts until on February 1, 2021 when parties in the matter finally reached terms of settlement, which document was filed on February 2, 2021 before the Imo State High Court.
According to the counsel to Agbaso, Chijioke Emeka, his client and the defendants which included the state governor, the State House of Assembly and the chief Judge of the State also requested that the terms of settlement be used as judgement in court.
Delivering the judgment on Monday, Justice Opara said that he was giving the consent judgment based on the terms of settlement reached by parties in the matter.
Briefing journalists after the court session, Agbaso’s counsel disclosed that the consent judgment had nullified the impeachment of his client on March 28, 2013, as the deputy governor of the State.
The counsel said that the judgment had restored his client’s entitlements as a former deputy governor of the State and had been legally fit to hold public positions again.
He said that the parties had to “shift grounds” in order to reach truce on the terms of settlements.
Agbaso, who was in court, told journalists that he was elated to be “vindicated” eight years after he was accused of being involved in fraud.
He accused former Governor Okorocha of intentionally framing him up “just to get me out of the way.”
Agbaso said “it has been a torturous eight years but I thank the good people of Imo state who Committed the disrupt mandate to me in 2011.I thank the government of Senator Hope Uzodinma for its bold stand which hastened the resolution.
“I also thank my lawyers for their tenacity since 2013, taking the case up to the Supreme Court and back to the High Court without charging professional fees.
“I thank my family for their all-time support, especially during the darkest moments when like the proverbial dog, I was given a bad name in order to hang me. I dedicate my belated vindication to the memory of my dear wife, late lady Ihuoma Agbaso, who supported me all the way and looked forward to this day, but sadly did not live to see it.”