The Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday nullified the 90 legislative days suspension of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege ( Delta Central- APC), by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Senator Omo- Agege who was suspended on 28 April 2018 for alleged violation of the Senate rule and for suing the Senate. He had in the suit prayed the court to nullify the suspension which the Senate had demanded he should withdraw.
Delivering the judgment, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said the nullification is with immediate effect. He also ordered the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pay Omo-Agege all his outstanding allowances.
However, the judge said the Senate has power to suspend erring members according to its rules for 14 legislative days, if due processes are followed.
The court disagreed with plaintiff that to have referred him to ethics and privileges committee was erroneous. He said the law does not exclude the senate from protecting its dignity and decorum. Nor did the law remove the senate powers to discipline erring member.
Justice Dimgba said that documents in court show that while Omo- Agege suit was pending the 1st and 2nd respondents went ahead to impose punishment.
Besides, “I am not convinced that the due process was followed.” In any case, “any suspension exceeding 14 days is null and void.”
The suspension for 90 legislative days denied the plaintiff’s constituency representation. The court held that the reason adduced by the Senate for suspending Omo-Agege was an affront on the court. It also violates the plaintiff constitution right of access to court
The decision by the Senate to punish the plaintiff violates section 4 (a) and 6(b) of the Constitution. The exercise of plaintiff right to court cannot be the basis for punishing him, the judge further held.
Justice Dimgba also held that section 67(4) of the Senate standing rule and section 21 of the legislatives Act as amended provide for suspension of erring members of the House to enforce discipline. And the senate is empowering to set up the ethic and privileges committee.
However, in the instant case, the ethic and privilege committee that recommended Omo-Agege suspension did not do it work with fairness.
According to the Court,” the Committee ought to have exclude the complainant Dino Melaye while it considered the complaints against the plaintiff.” He said the committee violates that rule of natural justice.
Earlier during the judgment, the judge had dismissed the preliminary objection of the 1st and 2nd respondents. The court held that the seven grounds of objections were misconceived