Damilola Oyedele and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Senate yesterday appealed the nullification of the suspension of Senator Ovie Omo-Agege by the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The Senate and its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who is the second defendant in the case, also filed a stay of execution of the nullification of the suspension.
Earlier yesterday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba had nullified the suspension placed on Omo-Agege by the upper legislative chamber over alleged infractions of its rules.
The senator had dragged the Senate before the court, alleging that his suspension was illegal, unlawful and such should be reversed by the court.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/314/2018, he prayed the court for an order restraining the upper legislative chamber from denying him access into the Senate chamber and or preventing him from carrying his legitimate duty as a senator in the National Assembly.
But delivering judgment in the matter, Justice Dimgba who reversed the suspension, held that though the legislature has the power to deal with erring members, it did not follow due process in arriving at its decision in the instant case.
The court however held that the position of the plaintiff that the Senate was wrong in proceeding with his investigation was baseless and consequently refused him reliefs one to seven prayed for in his originating summons.
In addition, he held that the upper legislative chamber was right to have directed its committee to investigate Omo-Agege.
But in his judgment, Justice Dimgba nullified the suspension on the grounds that due process was not followed and that the reason given for the suspension was an affront on government and the judiciary.
According to the report of the committee, Omo-Agege was punished for taking his suspension which was suppose to be an internal matter to the court.
â€œAccess to court is a constitutional right which cannot be taken away, by force or intimidationâ€, he said, adding: â€œThe decision to punish the plaintiff for going to court is a great violence to the constitution.â€
In faulting the process followed by the Senate in suspending the plaintiff, the judge further noted that while the matter was pending in court, the Senate went ahead to suspend the plaintiff.
Among others, Dimgba, faulted the 90 legislative day suspension placed on Omo-Agege, stating that no member of the Senate shall be suspended beyond 14 days based on default of the Senate laws.
â€œThe suspension for 90 days is ultra vires, the number of days a member can be suspended, according to the Senate rules is 14 days. It follows therefore that any suspension which exceeds 14 days is null and void,â€ he said.
In addition, Dimgba stated that suspending the senator for 90 days denies his constituency the right of representation.
The judge while declaring that the nullification is with immediate effect, also ordered the leadership to pay Omo-Agege all salaries and allowances due to the suspension.
Earlier, the judge dismissed the preliminary objection of the defendants challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.
Meanwhile, Omo-Agege has hailed the judgment, describing it as a victory for democracy.
A statement by his media aide, Mr. Efe Duku, said the judgment is consistent with the senatorâ€™s position that the Senate as a foremost national institution should live consistently by example and set the pace in legislative best practices.
â€œIt is not a victory against the Senate, as there is no war against that great institution. Rather, given his fine understanding of the law, Omo-Agege believes that there are rare moments that demand the intervention of our courts to enrich the law and our constitutional experience,â€ the statement read.
It added that the judgment is also about ensuring that no lawmaker is removed arbitrarily from serving his or her people.
â€œIt is about ensuring that constitutionality, legality, good conscience and due process are the cornerstones of public leadership actions and decisions,â€ it read.
â€œFor their increasingly amazing support, Senator Omo-Agege is very grateful to the good people of Urhobo Nation whom he has the great honour of representing in the 8th Senate. He remains absolutely committed to their fine values of justice, honour and humility in service,â€ the statement read further.