Senators elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday prayed an Abuja Federal High Court to restrain the federal government from aiding and abetting the forceful removal or impeachment of Senate President Bukola Saraki from office.
In a motion on notice filed by their council, Mahmoud Magaji (SAN), the plaintiffs are praying for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the defendants from unlawfully removing the Saraki as Senate president pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The plaintiffs, Senator Rafiu Adebayo (Kwara South) and Senator Isa Misau (Bauchi Central), are also praying the court for an order directing the parties in the suit to maintain status quo pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The case, with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/872/2018, was brought pursuant to Order 26 Rules 1, 2, and 7(1) of Federal High Court (Civil Proceedure) Rules 2009, and Section 6(6)(8)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Senate, the Senate president, deputy Senate president, Senator Ahmed Lawal (Senate leader), Senator Bala Ibn Nallah (deputy Senate leader), Senator Emma Bwacha (deputy minority leader), clerk of the Senate, deputy clerk of the Senate, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Department of State Service (DSS).
They are also seeking for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the AGF and IGP from unlawfully interfering with the lawful legislative duties of Saraki as Senate president until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The plaintiffs also want an “order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 10th to 11th defendants from harassing, hounding intimidating, arresting or detaining the 2nd defendant in respect of the lawful exercise of his duties pursuant to Section 50(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as attended), until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit”.
In the substantive suit brought by way of originating summons, the plaintiffs are praying the court to determine whether in view of the provisions of Section 50 (1)(a) and (2) of the 1999 Constitution, the Senate president who defected to another party as a result of division in his former party can be made to vacate his office other than in accordance with the provisions of Section 50 (2) of the Constitution.
Other question raised by the plaintiffs for the court to determine include: “Whether by a combined reading of Section 50(1)(a) and (2) of the Constitution and Order 3 Rule 8 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015 (as amended), the President of the Senate can be compelled to vacate his office on the ground that he is not a member of the party with majority of senators in the Senate?
“Whether by a combined reading of Section 50(2)(a) of the Constitution and Order 3, Rule 8 of the Senate Standing Orders, 2015 (as amended) the President of the Senate can be said to have vacated his office by virtue of Section 50(2)(a) of the Constitution when he has not ceased to be a member of the Senate?
“Whether the President of the Senate can be said to have vacated his office as President at the Senate by virtue of Section 50(2)(b) of the Constitution when the 8th Senate of which he is the President has not been dissolved?”
Upon the determination of these questions, the plaintiffs are seeking a declaration of the court that the President of the Senate cannot be made to vacate his office other than in accordance with the provisions of Section 50(2) of the Constitution.
Other reliefs sought for include: “A declaration that Saraki cannot be compelled to vacate his office on the ground that he is not a member of the party with majority of Senators in the Senate.
“A declaration that cannot be said to have vacated his office by virtue of Section 50(2)(a) of the Constitution when he has not ceased to be a member of the Senate.
“A declaration that the President of the Senate cannot be said to have vacated his office as President of the Senate by virtue of Section 50(2)(b) of the Constitution when the 8th Senate of which he is the President has not been dissolved.
“A declaration that the President of the Senate cannot be said to have vacated his office by virtue of Section 50(2)(c) of the Constitution when he has not been removed from office by the votes of not less than two third majority of the members of the Senate”.
In addition, they want a declaration that in view of Section 50 (2)(c) and the fact that the members of the Senate are 109 in number, any number less than 72 out of the 109 members of the Senate cannot validly sit and remove Saraki whether by impeachment or whatever name.
Further more, the plaintiffs want the court to declare that by a combined reading of Sections 5 and 150(1) of the Constitution, any of the 8th to 10th and 11th defendants or their privies, agents, servants in whatsoever name so called cannot validly enforce any act of the 1st, 3rd to 8th defendants, whether jointly or severally, removing the 2nd defendant from office without such act being in compliance with Section 50(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
Accordingly, the plaintiffs prayed the court for an order restraining the 9th, 10th and 11th defendants, either by themselves, agents, servants, privies by whatsoever name so called from enforcing any act of the 1st, 3rd to 8th defendants purporting to have removed the 2nd defendant from office without such act being in compliance with the provisions of Sections 50 (2) of the 1999 Constitution.
Also, in an affidavit deposed to by Senator Isah Misau in support of the originating summon, the plaintiffs informed the court that operatives of the Police and the DSS have taken steps to flagrantly breach the provision of Section 50 (i) and 2 of the Constitution by disrupting the plenary of the Senate without recourse to the provision to Section 50 (2)(c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Misau argued that the constitutional provision of removal of the Senate president as contained in Section 50 (2) (c) of the Constitution does not empower the AGF, the IGP and the DSS to unlawfully interfere with the legislative duties of the Senate by causing blockade at the premises of the National Assembly Complex or using their agents to disrupt the lawful duties of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the case.
A’Court Halts Arrest Of INEC Chairman
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal in Abuja yesterday ordered a stay of execution of the warrant of arrest issued on chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmoud Yakubu.
The court made the order pending the determination of the appeal filed by the INEC boss against the ruling of a Federal High Court in Abuja on August 1, 2018, ordering his arrest for refusing to appear before it on three different occasions.
The court headed by Justice Stephen Pam had summoned the INEC boss to show cause why he should not be committed to prison over his alleged disobedience to the order of the court.
Justice Pam had also in his short ruling on August 8 reaffirmed the order when Yakubu on the last adjourned date failed to appear before the court.
His counsel, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) had informed the court that Yakubu was not in court as a result of the appeals he filed at the appellate court challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the contempt charge, the legality of the charge as well as the arrest order.
But in his notice of appeal, the INEC chairman told the appellate court that Justice Pam acted in bad faith in the issuance of the arrest order because he had already filed a pending appeal against the order and the attention of the judge drawn to the appeal.
When the matter came up yesterday, counsel to Yakubu told the court that he had filed an application challenging the judgment of the lower court as well as its jurisdiction to hear the matter.
He added that the application was supported by a further affidavit dated August 10, praying the appellate court to make five orders in favour of his client.
Awomolo said if the appeal was not heard by the time the court would be sitting in September, his client would have been sent to prison, adding that the lower court was bent on sending Yakubu to jail.
However, counsel to the respondents, Goddy Uche (SAN), insisted that the trial was yet to reach the stage where Yakubu could be jailed, adding that what the trial court is asking for is for the INEC chief to appear in court to show cause why he should not be committed to prison.
He said the trial judge had been unable to deliver his ruling on the contempt charge because of Yakubu’s continued absence in court.
The three man panel of the appellate court presided over by Justice Abdu Aboki held that it would be better for the court to take the appeal and the substantive suit together.
The court, in a short ruling, held that hearing of the appeal cannot go on without delving into the main suit, adding that parties are yet to file their briefs of argument.
“Parties have agreed that the application cannot be taken today, since they have not filed their argument”, he said, adding that, argument cannot be taken without delving into the main issues.
The judge continued: “The proper order is to adjourn for parties to file their brief of argument and since the court below is aware of the appeal and considering the legality of the warrant of arrest issued, it would be prejudicial for the lower court to continue with the case.
“We therefore stay execution of the warrant of arrest pending the determination of this appeal and the substantive suit which would be taken together at the adjourned date”.
The matter was adjourned to September 17, 2018 for the hearing of the appeal and the substantive suit.
Court Restrains New Benue Speaker From Conducting Sittings
Meanwhile, the crises rocking the Benue State House of Assembly yesterday took another twist, as a Makurdi High Court restrained the new Speaker, Titus Uba and four principal officers of the Assembly from conducting sittings.
Those restrained alongside the Speaker from conducting sittings are Hon. Johnson Ahubi, Hon. Avine Agbom, Hon. Audu Sule, Hon. Kester Kyenge and Dr. Torese Agena.
Justice Theresa Igoche who gave the restraining order while ruling on an Exparte motion filed by the impeached Speaker, Terkimbi Ikyange, and four others in a suit against the new Speaker and five others, also restrained them from carrying any function(s) of the Assembly pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The court also restrained Uba and his leadership from entering and occupying the offices of the 1st to 5th plaintiff/applicants as well as further entry into the offices of 1st to 4th plaintiff in the Assembly Complex.
The Judge said, “I have read the motion No. MHC/1694m/18 filed on 10 August 2018, together with the other process accompanying it. Particularly, I have looked at paragraph 22-34 of the affidavit in support and paragraphs 5-13 of the affidavit of urgency.
“This Court takes judicial notice of the order of interim injunction made against the plaintiffs/applicants on 1st August, 2018 in suit No.MHC/259/18”.
Justifying the restraining orders, Justice Igoche said, “It is necessary for the purpose of averting any danger that may be caused and to avoid any breach of the peace, that this application be granted so that the members of the Benue State House of Assembly will not sit in the 5th Plaintiff/applicant(s) (Assembly) Complex until the motion on notice is heard and determined”.
Oshiomhole Summons APC Senators As NASS Defers Resumption
National chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has convened an emergency meeting of all Senators elected on the party’s platform.
LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that the meeting might not be unconnected with the suspension of the special sitting of the National Assembly billed to resume today to consider budgetary allocations for the 2019 polls.
It emerged yesterday that contrary to the anticipated special sittings of the Senate and the House of Representatives to consider the N242billion 2019 election budget, the idea of the sittings appear to have been dropped by the National Assembly leadership.
Although there is no official communication from the Senate leadership on the matter, Senators contacted for comments on the issue simply said they were yet to receive invitation for any special session.
LEADERSHIP findings revealed that the special sitting was aborted because many lawmakers have traveled out of the country for Hajj and holiday.
Following a meeting with the National Assembly leadership last Wednesday, INEC chairman, Mahmud Yakubu, had announced that he was assured by National Assembly leadership that both chambers would reconvene to consider the election budget this week.
“The most important thing to say is that INEC was invited to meet with the National Assembly leadership on how the proposed budget for the 2019 elections can be speedily considered and appropriated. We have been assured of speedy passage of the budget perhaps as early as next week”, Yakubu had said.
Confirming this, Senate Minority Whip, Philip Aduda, who was also at the meeting, had said, “If need be we will resume to consider the virement request and pass it. We are agreeing we will fix a date to discuss the budget and ensure approval”.
Sources within the Senate told our correspondent that it is the view of the Senate that considering and approving the request by Mr President would certainly take the National Assembly close to a month.
One of the sources who did not want his name in print said, “The request by President Muhammadu Buhari is not just a single line item that would just require a one day sitting. It will involve a variety of committees that would work on the budget, including the Appropriations, Finance, INEC and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“This is different from a situation whereby the President is asking for an increase in the size of the budget through a change of benchmark. The assignment required in respect of that letter from the President is not something that can be done in one day”.
According to the source, the National Assembly cannot achieve anything even if it was to reconvene for a sitting this week because the request has to be passed to the committees and the committees have to meet with MDAs.
“Besides, there is another issue that has to do with the Constituency projects. The letter is requesting the lawmakers to remove funds from their constituency projects and use the same to fund INEC. Remember that the Constituency projects are not one-line items in the budget.
You can’t imagine how long it would take the Appropriations committees to sort out that issue with the MDAs”, another source explained.
Also confirming the development, a lawmaker whon pleaded anonymity said, “Reconvening the National Assembly will not really work. It would mean that you want to keep the lawmakers around for the next one month, which defeats the idea of the annual recess.
“The letter by the President is not just requesting for an increase in benchmark, which can be handled in one day through Senate or House resolution. Treating the letter by the President will take two to three weeks”.
Sources close to the National Assembly further stated that the logistics of securing a quorum of either the Senate or the House was becoming more and more difficult, as the lawmakers are getting deep into the recess.
“Many of our colleagues have travelled for Hajj. Many are in their constituencies battling the challenges of re-election. If you check even with the APC right now, they can’t get up to 30 Senators and next week is Sallah, Arafat is on Monday and you will have holidays. A number of people have travelled. It is not practicable to reconvene now,” one of the sources added.
Stop Behaving Like Militants, Presidency Tells PDP
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday advised the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to stop behaving like a militant organisation.
The PDP in Kogi and Katsina states had rejected the results of the bye-elections in Lokoja/Kogi federal constituency and Katsina North Senatorial Zone, which took place on Saturday.
But speaking to State House correspondents yesterday, senior special assistant on media and publicity to the president, Mallam Garba Shehu, noted that a political party cannot be run like a militant organization.
Urging the PDP to go to court if they have any grievances, Shehu challenged any individual who has evidence of vote-buying in the by-elections to report to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
He stated: “One is to say that bribery of voters or vote buying is an offence in this country. I think that citizens who have evidence regarding this have a duty to report to the law enforcement agencies. This is the way to help the country.
“Secondly, I think that it is not the right attitude for a political party, a so called opposition leader, to conduct their affairs like a militant organization. A political party cannot be ran like a militant organization.
“If you have disagreement on the outcome of an election, they know the process and they know it because they abused it before. You can see this is the clear difference of the kind of democracy the APC administration is trying to put in place from what they are used to”.
The presidential spokesman also disclosed that the election results in the bye-elections were pointers to the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo would clinch victory in 2019.
He said, “I like to speak to you about the fabulous shows of the APC in Katsina, Bauchi and Kogi, and even to some extent, in Cross River State. All of these are coming against the background of Ekiti State.
“It is clear that from election after election, Nigerians are reposing confidence in the Buhari/Osinbajo presidency. Each of these election victories is considered to be epic in nature because none of these elections was an ordinary election.
“We are happy that we have won and on behalf of the president and the acting president, we like to say thank you to Nigerians who continue to repose their confidence in the leadership of the APC administration”.
He also appealed to the National Assembly to be on the same page with the Buhari administration to deliver the much needed change to Nigerians.
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