Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the reinstatement of removed Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly, Hon Momoh Jimoh Lawal, to office.
Lawal and nine other principal members of the assembly had challenged their purported removal from office by the Umar Imam- led group on February 16, 2016, insisting that due process of the law was not followed.
Other plaintiffs in the suit are Aliyu Akuh (deputy speaker), Kolawole Matthew, Osiyi Godwin, Sunday Shigaba, Ndako Idris, Oluwatoyin Lawal, Musa Jimoh, Victor Omofaye and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while the defendants are Umar Imam, Friday Sani, Lawal Ahmed, Bello Abdullahi and John Abah, 1st to 5th respectively.
The Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the Department of State Security Services (DSS) and the Commandant Civil Defence Corps and Kogi State House of Assembly were listed as 6th to 9the defendants respectively.
The litigation centred on the transition of leadership of the assembly between the two contending parties, consisting of the plaintiffs on one side and the defendants on the other.
The plaintiffs challenged their replacement on the grounds that it was unlawfully and unconstitutionally done, and therefore urged the court to set it aside and their position restored.
Whereas the defendants argued that the removal of Lawal was as a result of his resignation, the 1st plaintiff (Lawal) insisted before the court that he did not resign.
Delivering judgement on the suit yesterday, the trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, ordered the 1st to 5th defendants to “Immediately vacate the different offices they now purportedly occupy by reason of the purported impeachment and removal of the Speaker and other principal officers.”
Consequently, Justice Dimgba directed the Speaker (Lawal) and the other principal officers (2nd to 9th plaintiffs) to immediately resume their duties in their different offices as they were never impeached and/or removed.
Justice Dimgba also ordered the DSS, Civil Defence Corps and the state assembly “to immediately restore the security details of the 1st plaintiff (Lawal) and other principal officers purportedly impeached or removed by the illegal acts of the 1st to 5th defendants”.
The judge further restrained the 7th to 9th defendants from further barricading the complex of the House of Assembly and preventing the plaintiffs from accessing the chambers of the assembly to conduct their legitimate duties as legislators validly elected to represent their various constituencies.
The court declared that the purported impeachment of the leadership of the House on February 16, 2016 by the 1st to 5th defendants was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void having regard to the provisions of Sections 90, 91, 92 (2)(c), 95 (1), (2) and 96 (1) (2) of the Constitution; Rule 3(1)(2) Standing Rules of the KSHA and the proclamation of the KSHA dated February 16, duly signed by the Speaker pursuant to Rule 4(2)(3).
More so, the court declared that the election of the 1st to 5th defendants as leaders of the House was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
According to Justice Dimgba, “a careful perusal of Chapter 5, Part 2 (Comprising Sections 90 to 129) of the Constitution does not reveal any provision that deals with the resignation of a Speaker of the House of Assembly.
“But it is important to assert that whether or not a resignation has occurred at any material time is not an issue of law, but an issue of fact. Facts are proven by evidence, not by declaration and the rule remains that he who asserts must prove” the court stated.
“I note that the 1st to 5th defendants have not provided any evidence before the court to buttress this claim of resignation.
“This evidence could have been in the form of a duly authenticated record of proceedings of the KSHA of February 15, 2016 showing the resignation of the speaker and the orderly transition of power to the 1st to 5th defendants.
“Such evidence could also be in the form of a duly authenticated resignation letter from the 1st plaintiff as speaker. All of this the 1st to 5th defendants have failed to do” the court noted.
Earlier, the court had dismissed the preliminary objection raised by the defendants challenging jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter in Abuja instead of Lokoja division of the court as well as mode of commencement of the suit, which they said should have been by writ of summon and not by an originating summon.