The court overturned the removal of former Deputy Prime Minister Imo

The High Court of State of Imo, presided over by Justice SI Opara, annulled yesterday the removal of the former Deputy Governor of the State, Mr. Jude Agbas, and ordered the return of all his rights and benefits from the time of his removal to the expiration of his term.

The court, in a verdict of short consent, yesterday lifted Agbas’ removal, which caused public outrage in 2013.

Agbaso was removed on March 28, 2013 by the Imo State House, on the recommendation of a seven-member panel set up by the then chief state judge, Judge Benjamin Njemanze, who investigated allegations of gross misconduct against him by then-Governor Rochas Okorocha.

The former deputy governor has been charged with acts of serious corruption, including seeking bribes of N458 million from suppliers, the J-Pross Construction Company and Red Label wine bottles.

Agbaso filed a lawsuit asking a high court judge to ban lawmakers from removing him, claiming he was a victim of political intrigue and blackmail.

The court refused to intervene, leaving room for MPs to remove the deputy governor.

Following his removal, Agbaso also went to court to overturn his removal and put him back in his place.

He continued to seek redress in the courts until February 1, 2021, when the parties in the matter finally reached the terms of settlement, which document was filed on February 2, 2021 before the High Court of the State of Imo.

According to Agbas’ lawyer, Chijioke Emeka, his client and defendants, including the governor of the state, the State House of Assembly and the chief judge of the state, also requested that the terms of the settlement be used as a judgment in court.

Delivering the verdict yesterday, Judge Opara said he gives his consent based on the terms of the settlement reached by the parties in the matter.

Reporting to reporters after the court hearing, Agbas’ defense attorney revealed that the verdict of consent annulled the removal of his client on March 28, 2013, as deputy governor of the state.

Defense counsel said the verdict restored the right of his client as a former deputy governor of the state and that he was legally capable of re-performing public office.

He said the parties had to “change the basis” to reach a truce under the terms of the settlement.

Agbaso, who was in court, also told reporters he was thrilled to be “justified” eight years after he was accused of involvement in the fraud.

He accused former governor Okorochu of deliberately setting him up “just to get me out of the way”.

Agbaso said “eight painful years have passed, but I thank the good people of the state of Imo who handed me the mandate to disrupt 2011. I thank the government of Senator Hope Uzodinme for the courageous attitude that accelerated the resolution.”

“I also thank my lawyers for their persistence since 2013, transferring the case to the Supreme Court and the High Court without charging professional fees.

“I thank my family for their constant support, especially in the darkest moments when, like the proverbial dog, I got a bad name for hanging me. I dedicate my belated justification to the memory of my dear wife, the late Lady Ihuoma Agbaso, who supported me all the way and looked forward to the present day, but unfortunately did not experience it.