Despite the senate’s resolve not to stop the senator representing Delta Central, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from resuming today, the senator failed to attend the plenary.
The embattled senator had said on Sunday that he would attend the senate sitting today in line with the court order quashing his suspension.
Omo-Agege who spoke to journalists when he accompanied the chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Delta State congress committee, to submit his report, said nobody has the right to obstruct his entry into the upper legislative chamber.
“The enrollment of the court order is being served on the Senate as we speak and I believe that it has been served on the Senate. Thereafter, I reserve the right to resume whenever I deem fit.
“I don’t expect any resistance because that will have its own consequences. This is a court order and you must understand the basis of the court judgment. The court gave that judgment because it felt that they were contemptuous.”
It would be recalled that on April 2, 2018, the senate suspended Omo-Agege for 90 days for taking a different view on the senate’s decision to tinker with the order of the 2019 general elections.
The senator had approached the court to challenge his suspension.
On May 10, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja ruled that while the National Assembly has the power to discipline its erring members, he voided Omo-Agege’s suspension which he said was anchored on illegality.
Although the court refused to grant any of the seven prayers sought by the senator, it held that the suspension could not hold on the grounds of the “violence” it did to the Constitution.
The judge noted that from the wording of the report of the Senate’s Ethics and Privileges Committee which recommended Omo-Agege’s suspension, he was punished for filing a suit against the Senate after apologising to the legislative house over the allegation levelled against him.
“Access to court is a fundamental right in the Constitution, which cannot be taken away by force or intimidation from any organ,” the judge ruled.
He added that the senate’s decision to punish Omo-Agege for filing a suit against the Senate and for punishing him while his suit was pending constituted an affront on the judiciary.
He added that even if the Senate had rightly suspended the senator, it could only have suspended him for only a period of 14 days as prescribed in the senate extant rules.
He also ruled that the principle of natural justice was breached by the Senate’s Ethics and Privileges Committee by allowing Senator Dino Melaye, who was the complainant, to participate in the committee’s sitting that considered the issue and also allowed him to sign the committee’s report.
The judge, therefore, nullified Omo-Agege’s suspension “with immediate effect.”
He also ordered that the senator be paid all his allowances and salaries for the period he was illegally suspended.
The senate appealed the ruling but said in a statement that while it was waiting for a stay of execution, it would not stop the lawmaker from resuming plenary.
In a statement signed by its chairman, committee on media and publicity, Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi, the senate said as an institution that obeys the law and court orders, it had decided that it would comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court and do nothing to stop Omo-Agege from resuming in his office and at plenary from today, pending the determination of the application for stay of execution.
“The Senate leadership has been briefed by our lawyers on last Thursday’s judgment of the Federal High Court, in Abuja, on whether the Senate has the legal authority to suspend a member for certain misconduct or not.
“We have equally filed an appeal against the judgment of the court and a motion for stay of execution of the judgment at the Court of Appeal.
“As an institution that obeys the law and court orders, the Senate has decided that it will comply with the judgment of the Federal High Court and do nothing to stop Omo-Agege from resuming in his office and at plenary from May 15, 2018, pending the determination of the application for stay of execution.
“The Senate has been advised that since the motion for stay of execution of the judgment shall be heard and possibly determined on May 16, 2018, we shall therefore respect the subsisting High Court judgment and await the appellate court’s decision on the pending motion.”
Meanwhile, human rights advocate, Mr. Femi Falana has described the senate’s decision to comply with Justice Dimgba’s judgement as a “commendable obedience to the rule of law.”
He said the Senate had demonstrated leadership by example by complying with the judgment without any conditions whatsoever. But he also advised the lawmakers to withdraw their appeal of the judgement.
“This is highly commendable in a country where official impunity has since been institionalised,” he stated.
“Having regard to the settled position of the law as espoused by our courts in not less than five cases wherein the suspension of legislators by legislative houses was annulled and set aside the Senate should withdraw the appeal filed against the judgment of the Federal High Court in the case of Senator Omo-Agege.
“That was the matured approach adopted by the Dimeji Bankole-led House of Representatives in the case of Hon Dino Melaye and others v House of Representatives.”
Falana further called on the Executive branch of the federal government “to emulate the good example of the Senate by complying with all valid and subsisting judgments of all courts in Nigeria.
“In particular, the Executive should, as a matter of urgency, purge itself of contempt of court by complying with the judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on December 2, 2016 which directed that Sheik Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife, Hajia Zeinab Elzakzaky be released from the illegal custody of the State Security Service.
“In the same vein, Colonel Sambo Dasuki ought to be released on bail in line with the orders of the Federal High Court, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory and the Community Court of Justice Economic Community of West African States,” said Falana.