AGF: No Legal Basis to Seal off Kogi Assembly

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Yekini Jimoh in Lokoja
As the Kogi State House of Assembly remains sealed due to the lingering crisis in the assembly, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said there is insufficient legal basis for the directive to the Inspector General of Police (IG) by the House of Representatives to seal the assembly until the matter is resolved.

This was contained in a letter with reference number: HAGF/NPF/ 2016/ Vol.1 and dated April 5, 2016, from the AGF addressed to the IG, Solomon Arase, which a copy was made available yesterday to THISDAY in Lokoja.

The AGF in the letter noted that the constitution, in his own opinion, presumes that the general security situation in the state should have deteriorated to the extend that the State House of Assembly finds it difficult or impossible to operate or exercise its normal legislative activities.

“Section 11 (4) is therefore not meant to address mere issues of disagreements between legislators within the state House of Assembly, since it is recognised that such disagreements or disputes are normal incidences within the democratic governance space. The 1999 Constitution therefore never presumed that every disagreement within a state legislature would be visited with the sanction of National Assembly legislative oversight,” he said.

He also mentioned that: “It is instructive to note that Section 11 (4) is part of the general Section 11 of the constitution which is titled: ‘Public Order and Public Security.’ It must therefore be read within such a context and not merely in relation to the situation within the House of Assembly.”

Malami opined that the state was currently not under a state of emergency or any situation close to it. “At best, what was playing out in the state was an internal dispute within the House of Assembly from which the majority of its citizens have been immune as normal activities continue to take place. The said dispute was also of a character which was ultimately capable of being resolved by requisite judicial intervention, in line with the constitution,” he emphasised.

He added that the rules of procedure of the National Assembly preclude it from taking a decision on a matter, adopting a resolution where such a matter is pending before a court of law. “In this case, it would appear to me that this rule of procedure was observed in the breach by the National Assembly as it is on record that both parties to the dispute in the the state House of Assembly had already filed actions in court at the time the decision of the National Assembly was taken.”

“A notable example of a pending action in the above regard was suit no. FHC/LKJ/CS/16/16 (Kogi State House of Assembly and three Others V. National Assembly and two Others), which to the best of my knowledge is on-going. It is therefore my considered view that the resolution of the House of Representatives on the matter breached its own rules and would therefore face a grave test of validity,” Malami Stated.

He noted that a close reading of Section 11 (4) further suggests that if the National Assembly is expected to ‘make laws’ for the peace, order and good government of a state in crisis, it cannot make such laws on the basis of a resolution. “The legal maximum that ‘You cannot build something on nothing’ will be applicable here. It is submitted that the National Assembly in the appropriate circumstances, where it validly exercises its power under Section 11(4), would need to back up its resolution with a bill, which when ultimately passed into law, would create the necessary legal basis for its take-over of such legislative functions,” he said.

The AGP stressed that it appears to him that the determination by the National Assembly that the alleged impeachment of the speaker of the state assembly by five members of the assembly’ was ‘null and void’ was an exercise of judicial power by the legislature, contrary to Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), as it is a matter that should be determined judicially on the application of the affected persons.

“The same evaluation will attend its description of the alleged action of the Nigeria Police Force in purportedly providing protection for five persons as an act that was tantamount to ‘subverting the provision of the constitution” as matters of constitutionality are issues for judicial determination,” he mentioned.

The AGF therefore advised the IG to take all necessary action within the law to continue to ensure the safety of lives and property in the state and ensure that the necessary public peace and order are maintained appropriately.