Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, has challenged the competence of a legal action instituted at the Federal High Court in Abuja by five aggrieved senators to contest the legality of his election and that of Dr. Bukola Saraki as the Senate President.
Ekweremadu, in a motion filed against the suit, claimed that the five aggrieved senators erred in law by filing the action vide the originating summons.
The deputy senate president who disclosed that since the case of the aggrieved All Progressives Congress (APC) senators was predicated on alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order, they (senators) ought to have brought the action to court through the writ of summons instead of originating summons.
Ekweremadu, in a motion on notice filed by his counsel, Mr. Patrick Ikwueto (SAN), prayed Justice Evoh Stephen Chukwu to order that the case of the aggrieved senators was inappropriate for determination vide the originating summons procedure.
He also asked the judge to order that the case be transferred for hearing under the general cause list, and that the parties in the suit be directed to file and exchange pleadings and witness statements on oath for hearing and determination of the suit.
The motion was predicated on the ground that when a case is transferred to another court to be commenced de novo (afresh), it is trite law that the suit be heard anew and that all findings of the previous court cannot be adopted or built upon by the new court.
He argued that the suit filed by originating summons on July 27, 2015, was anchored on alleged falsification of the Standing Order of the Senate.
In an 18-paragraph affidavit in support of the motion, Ekweremadu claimed that the allegation of contriving or concocting the Senate Standing Orders 2015 amounted to falsification, forgery or fraud and that by the nature, the suit cannot be decided by originating summon but by the writ of summon, where evidence can be adduced orally.
He maintained that it was necessary to call oral evidence in order to resolve the material conflicts in the affidavit and counter-affidavit of the parties, and that unless oral evidence tested under cross examination is produced, the conflicting affidavit will be incapable of resolution in the suit.
“I have vehemently asserted in my counter affidavit to the originating summons that the Senate Standing Order 2015 (as amended) is valid and the eighth National Assembly being convened was entitled to conduct its affairs independent of the Rules enacted by the seventh National Assembly,” he said.
When the matter came up yesterday for hearing, counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Mamman Mike Osuman (SAN), who addressed the court through Dele Adesina (SAN), told the court that Ekweremadu took him by surprise with the new motion served on him in the open court.
He complained that the action of the deputy senate president was a ploy to scuttle hearing of the case filed since last year, therefore asked for an adjournment to enable him react to the motion.
Counsel to Saraki, Mr. Kayode Eleja (SAN), who did not oppose the application for adjournment, however, stated that both parties have been serving each other with court process in the open court.
Justice Chukwu then adjourned the case till April 27 and directed that henceforth, serving of court papers should be through chambers to chambers and no longer in the open court.
Plaintiffs in the suit are Senators Abu Ibrahim, Kabiru Garba Marafa, Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Bareehu Olugbenga Ashafa and Suleiman Othman Hunkuyu.
They had sued Saraki, Ekweremadu and four others seeking that the election of Saraki and Ekweremadu as Senate President and Deputy respectively, be set aside because the Senate Standing Order used for the election was forged.
Saraki had in his preliminary objection to the suit asked the court to throw it out on the ground that he was elected senate president unopposed by his colleagues.
He also claimed that the five senators have no basis to complain against the election because they never aspired to the office or have the mandate of other 104 senators to institute the suit.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola who first heard the case was petitioned by Ekweremadu at the verge of delivering judgment on the ground that the judge was biased against him due to external influence from APC-led Lagos State Government that made the wife of the judge, Mrs. Tolulope Adeniyi Ademola, the Head of Service of the state to do their alleged bidding.
The case file was withdrawn from Justice Ademola on the strength of the petition by the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, and re-assigned to Justice Chukwu to start afresh.