Twist as court nullifies Omo-Agege’s suspension

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court yesterday nullified the suspension of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from the Senate. Giving the judgement, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba averred that the Senate’s decision regarding the suspension, as well as the pattern adopted by the National Assembly, was constitutionally defective. Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central, had approached the court, after the Senate’s committee on ethics and privileges began investigating his comments condemning the Senate over the National Assembly’s decision to amend the electoral act.
In a reaction to the comments made by Omo-Agege, the lawmaker representing Kogi Central, Senator Dino Melaye, called for an investigation of the former’s statement. Subsequently, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Petitions, investigated the matter and recommended the suspension of OmoAgege for 181 days. After reviewing the committee’s report, Omo-Agege was suspended by the Senate for 90 legislative days. The committee was mandated to investigate the remarks made by the senator on February 14th, 2018 that the new sequenc
e of election , the Senate included in the now vetoed 2010 Electoral Act ( Amendment) Bill 2018, was targeted at President Muhammadu Buhari . But rather than appearing before the committee to make explanations on the alleged remarks, the lawmaker served it with a court notice challenging the Senate’s decision. Omo-Agege 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.
In a lengthy judgement delivered yesterday, the court held that the seven reliefs sought by the applicant could not be given. Justice Dimgba, however, added that despite the fact that the Senate had a constitutional duty to discipline its members; such disciplinary measures must comply with provisions of the law. 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. “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 are 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 not more than 14 days. The court, therefore, nullified OmoAgege’s suspension “with immediate effect,” and directed all his entitlements, including salaries denied him during the illegal suspension, be paid to him.
We‘ll decide on next line of action -Senate In a reaction, the committee Chairman, Senator Anyanwu (PDP Imo East), said the Senate will decide what next line of action to take on the judgement. Anyanwu who spoke in an exclusive interview with the Blueprint in his office, said as the committee chair who recommended the senator’s suspension, he has no ill feelings about the judgement since he has nothing personal against the senator in the first place.
“The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions under my chairmanship has done its own bit as far as issues relating to the suspension of Senator Omo- Agege was concerned. “Now that the court of first instance has nullified the suspension, the Senate to which we all belong, will study the judgement and decide on what line of action to take”.

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