An Abuja High Court sitting in Bwari has nullified all actions taken against the current Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, by the 8th National Assembly in respect of last year’s forceful removal of the Senate’s mace by some unknown persons.
Senator Omo-Agege had approached the court with suit No. FCT/HC/BW/CB 106/2019 following alleged claims that he was instrumental to the unlawful snatching of the symbol of authority of the red chamber.
The Deputy Senate President had sought the court to remedy various alleged breaches of his fundamental human rights, particularly his right to fair hearing by a Joint Ad-hoc Investigation Committee created by the then President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Delivering judgment in the suit on Tuesday, Justice O.A. Musa declared that “the creation of the joint Ad-hoc Committee by the 1st Respondent (President of the Senate) on Wednesday, the 25 th April 2018 to investigate the invasion of the National Assembly by some unknown thugs and hooligans on the 18 th April, 2018 and the theft thereof of the senate Mace chaired by the 6th Respondent is ultra vires, illegal and unconstitutional being an exclusive statutory responsibility of the Nigerian Police or the State Security Service and it is tantamount to being a judge in one’s own case.”
The Court also gave an order of perpetual injunction restraining any further inquiry into the theft of the mace by the National Assembly; nullified the proceedings of the ad-hoc committee and ordered that they be “expunged from the hansard of the National Assembly”.
In reaching its decisions, Justice Musa noted that it amounted to “an unholy encroachment into the sacred province of the Judiciary” for Senator Saraki to create the joint ad-hoc committee to investigate the incidence having publicly accused Senator Omo-Agege on his verified Twitter handle of committing “ ’treason’ which in our penal jurisprudence ranks as one of the most heinous crimes against the state.”
On the question of fair hearing, the Court found that the ad-hoc committee breached Omo-Agege’s constitutional right to fair hearing when it allowed witnesses to testify against him in his absence and did not give him (Omo-Agege) any opportunity to cross-examine them.
In his conclusion, Justice Musa stated that, “there is no iota of evidence indicating that the applicant Senator Ovie Omo-Agege stole the Mace and invaded the senate, the allegation is more of his accomplices perpetuating the act, which has not been proved. It is therefore wrong for any person or authority within the Federal Republic of Nigeria to print, publish or circulate in the media or social networks like the 1st Respondent (President of the Senate) did that the applicant led thugs to invade the senate and cause same to be published in Punch Newspaper of 18/04/2019. This is the highest height of defamation, I so hold.”
He however noted, “The applicant has not sought any relief as regards to defamation as an ancillary relief, it is however only fair that the findings above are findings made in rem as such any future publication becomes a new cause of action, I so order. He may serve this judgment on the media or newsprint to avoid them acting without knowing of the orders and declarations made in rem, which inure to his favour.”
Reacting to the judgment, Prince Efe Duku, senior legislative aide to Senator Omo-Agege said, “The Deputy President of the Senate has told the world that all that happened in the 8th Senate is now history and that remains our responsible position. He went to court during the life of the 8th Senate, not this 9th Senate. As an unapologetic democrat, he simply went to the court to test the law regarding those manifestly bad faith actions which have now been rightly nullified. We knew from the beginning that the whole ad-hoc committee arrangement was an unlawful, illegal, unconstitutional and vexatious charade in so far as a crime or crimes were alleged.
“We thank God that by the sound judgment of the Noble Lord, his position has been clearly vindicated. It is also quite significant that the court made strong statements on the issue of defamation and put them in rem. We believe mischief makers will take serious note and be well-guided. Today, the Rule of Law prevailed rather than the Rule of Man. We thank God indeed”, Duku said.