The Senate and its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki on Monday said the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit brought before it by the Senator representing Delta Central Senatorial District in the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege challenging his suspension from the Upper legislative chamber.
This is just as the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) told the court that the actions of the Senate that led to Omo-Agege’s suspension were unlawful and unconstitutional.
At the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) representing the Senate attacked the jurisdiction of the court and urged it to dismiss the suit.
He said what led to Omo-Agege’s suspension was the internal affairs of the Senate and that the court should not heed to the temptation of delving into the internal affairs of the Senate.
According to Magaji, Omo-Agege participated in the committee that led to the suspension of other senators and added that he (Omo-Agege) has no right to run to the court for protection.
“The plaintiff swore an oath to bound by the rules and decisions of the Senate”, he said and urged the court to dismiss the suit.
The Senator had, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/314/2018 wants an order of the court restraining the Senate from denying him access unto the Senate chamber and or preventing him from carrying his legitimate duty as a senator in the National Assembly.
He joined the Senate, the Senate President and the AGF as respondents in the suit filed on his behalf by his counsel, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN), who urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection of the Senate.
Izinyon said the suit, as constituted is proper and competent, adding that the Supreme Court has said that, one can use any mode in challenging an infringement of fundamental human rights.
While referring the court to the case of Senator Ali Ndume, Izinyon said the suspension of his client is not an internal affair of the Senate as the rights of his client were violated.
Izinyon urged the court for a consequential order nullifying any other step taken by the defendants, during the pendency of the suit, adding that the court has the power to pull down whatever is done by the respondents.
Counsel to the AGF, Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, in his submissions, agreed with the plaintiff that the suit be allowed as the mode of commencement did not violate any rule.
He said the constitution vested on the AGF to defend the constitution as the Chief Law Officer and added that “All the actions of the Senate, leading to the suspension of the plaintiff in this matter are unlawful and unconstitutional and we urge the court to so hold.”
After hearing the submissions of parties, the trial judge, Justice Dimgba slated May 10, 2018, to deliver judgment and directed 1st and 2nd respondents to file response to the plaintiff’s originating summons within 72 hours.
Recalled that Omo-Agege, had approached the court with an exparte motion seeking prohibitive injunction against the Senate, but the court declined and instead, ordered that the Senate and its President should show cause why the reliefs being sought by the plaintiff should not be granted, within seven days, ordered accelerated hearing of the matter, and adjourned till April 27, 2018, for definite hearing.
Among other reliefs, the plaintiff is praying for are, “A declaration that the 1st and 2nd defendants’ referral of the plaintiff to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions for trial for expressing his opinion on the purport of a Section of the Electoral Act N0. 6, 2010 (Amendment) Bill 2017 is an act calculated to interfere with or likely to constitute a breach of the plaintiff’s fundamental human right to freedom of expression without interference as guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] and Article 9(2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap A9 LFN, 2004.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, their servants, agents, privies, officers or otherwise howsoever from interfering with the plaintiffs rights and or privileges as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or and preventing him from entering or remaining within the precinct or Chamber of the Senate or National Assembly or attempting to forcibly remove him from the chamber or precinct of the National Assembly or in any way impeding or undermining the plaintiff’s ability to function as a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”