Symbol of justice
By Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court in Abuja has struck out the suit filed by human rights activist, Mr Femi Falana, challenging the powers of the federal legislators to award jumbo salaries and allowances to themselves.
The court struck out the suit on the ground that the plaintiff lacks the locus standi to maintain the suit.
Falana filed in August 2010 when there was a national uproar over the decision of the National Assembly members to fix scandalous emoluments for themselves.
He sought a declaratory relief to the effect that the members of the National Assembly are not entitled to receive any payment outside the salaries and allowances determined and fixed for them by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Allocation Commission (RMFAC) pursuant to Section 70 of the constitution.
In support of the originating summons, Falana accused the legislators of usurping the constitutional powers of the RMFAC by taking advantage passing Appropriation Bills into law to make themselves the highest paid lawmakers in the world.
While relying on the case of Fawehinmi vs The President (2008) 23 WRN 65, Falana urged the court to appreciate that the anachronistic doctrine of locus standi was discarded by the Court of Appeal when it declared illegal and unconstitutional the payment of salaries of two ministers in dollars.
He also submitted that his legal standing to promote good governance had been constitutionally guaranteed.
In opposing the suit, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the National Assembly through their counsel, Dr. Alex Izion (SAN) and Mr. Kenneth Ikonne, respectively, challenged the locus standi of Falana to question the salaries and allowances of the federal lawmakers. The defendants’ lawyers described Falana as a ‘busy body’ who has not shown that his personal interest has been affected by the jumbo pay of the legislators.
They therefore urged the trial court to dismiss the case on the authority of Abraham Adesanya v The President (1981) All NLR page 1. Both the RMFAC and the Accountants who were joined in the action did not defend the suit.
In his judgment, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, held that Falana lacked the locus standi to institute the case as he did not prove that he had suffered any greater injury than other Nigerian citizens as a result of the action of the lawmakers.
In striking out the suit, the judge said the human rights activist ought to have complained to the RMFAC and that if the body failed to act he could then sue to compel it to carry out its duty under the constitution.
In his reaction to the judgment Falana said he would study the judgment and then decide whether to lodge a complaint with the RMAFC on the illegal jumbo pay or challenge the judgment on appeal since the judge conceded that it was the constitutional duty of the RMFAC to determine and fix the salaries and allowances of the legislators.