Symbol of Justice
Adebiyi Adedapo in Abuja
Justice Peter Kekemeke of an Abuja High Court will on January 30, 2013, decide on whether or not the N250 billion suit brought against the Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Aminu Tambuwal and the erstwhile chairman of Ad hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy, Hon. Farouk Lawan, would survive or be struck out.
A Lagos-based businessman, Mr. Femi Otedola, is asking the court to allow and sustain the N250 billion suit he instituted against the duo over an alleged harassment, intimidation and the business losses he suffered from the bribery scandal involving him and Lawan.
Otedola through his lawyer, Chief Babajide Koku (SAN) yesterday told Justice Kekemeke not to allow Tambuwal and Lawan hide under any legislative immunity to escape the action they committed outside their legislative powers.
The plaintiff insisted that the legislative immunity could not be used to defend the allegation of request and receipt of bribe.
He therefored asked the judge to make the two defendants defend themselves as allowed by law.
He also objected to the prayer of Tambuwal and Lawan that the court lacks jurisdiction over the matter.
Koku argued that the case of Otedola and his Zenon Oil and Gas Ltd was on the demand for bribe with the use of harassment and intimidation and not an attack against the fuel subsidy or the report of the subsidy committee.
He argued that the issue of jurisdiction of a court in any matter could be determined by the nature of reliefs, facts and statement of claims, adding that since the suit did not challenge the revenue of the Federal Government or the administrative decision of the National Assembly, an Abuja High Court has power and jurisdiction to hear it.
“The two defendants missed the road by construing the case of the plaintiffs to be attack on the decision of the House of Representatives. They have been sued in their personal capacity for demanding for and receiving bribe because the terms of reference of the subsidy probe did not include receipt of bribes as done and even confirmed by Lawan.”
Counsel to Tambuwal, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) and counsel to Lawan, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju from the chambers of Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), vehemently opposed Otedola’s argument.
They claimed that the two lawmakers enjoy absolute legislative immunity for words spoken on the floor of the House.
Ogunwumiju argued in his objection that there was no cause of action because Otedola freely gave out the bribe to Lawan to escape being sanctioned for fraud, adding that there was no ingredient of intimidation or harassment on the deal.
He also submitted that the failure of the plaintiff to join the National Assembly has dealt a blow to the case because the appropriate party was not in court to defend the mandate given to the Lawan committee.
Ahamba however urged the court to strike out the name of the Speaker because his person and office were not involved in the complaint of the plaintiffs.
He said that the case was not properly constituted because Tambuwal was not a necessary party and his presence not necessary having not being named in the bribery allegation.