Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court Abuja has declared as illegal the suspension of the representative of Delta Central Senatorial District, Mr. Ovie Omo-Agege by the senate.
The senator had approached the court, after the senate committee on ethics and privileges began investigating his comments condemning the senate over the National Assembly’s decision to amend the electoral act.
He also asked the court to determine whether the Senate had constituted authority to investigate and even discipline a senator, whose case is already before a court of law.
After investigating the matter, the committee recommended the suspension of the senator for 181 days.
But following a review of the committee’s report, Omo-Agege was suspended by for 90 legislative days.
Delivering judgement on the matter, Justice Dimgba held that while the National Assembly has the power to discipline any of its erring members, the premise on which Omo-Agege’s suspension was anchored was illegal.
Although the court refused to grant any of the seven prayers sought by the senator, it held that the suspension could not hold on grounds of the “violence” it has done to the Constitution.
According to the judge, although the plaintiff, as a senator, is not prohibited from holding a contrary view from his colleagues, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute.
The judge faulted Omo-Agege’s decision to address journalists on the matter pending before the privileges committee, stressing that the sanctity of the National Assembly must be maintained at all times.
Reading through a part of the report submitted by the Senate committee, however, Dimgba said the decision of the Senate to premise it’s suspension of Omo-Agege on his resolve to approach the court was an affront on government and abuse of the Senate’s powers.
“Access to court is a constitutional right which cannot be taken away,” he said.
The judge said section 4 (8) provides that the exercise of legislative powers shall be subject to the decisions of the court. He also said the cited provision states that the Senate cannot take a decision that will tend to oust the functions of the Judiciary.
According to Dimgba, where the actions of the Senate is found to be in violation of constitutional provisions, the section 4 (8) becomes fully applicable by the Judiciary.
The judge further ruled that constitutional provisions only allow the Senate to suspend its member for nor more than 14 days.
Subsequently, the judge ruled that the decision of the Senate to suspend Omo-Agege for 90 days is a nullity.
The court therefore nullified Omo-Agege’s suspension with immediate effect and rule that all outstanding salaries and allowances be paid to the senator.