Court Upholds Senate’s Power of Summons

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Orders IG to appear before upper chamber

Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja yesterday, upheld the power of the Senate to summon public officers and dismissed the suit filed by the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Ibrahim Idris challenging his summons by the Senate.

The presiding judge, Justice John Tsoho also said the IG ought to have honoured the second invitation of the Senate on him, having failed to respond to the first one as he was on an official assignment to Bauchi State with President Muhammadu Buhari

Idris, in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/ CS/ 457/2018, had approached the court for an order restraining the Senate and its leadership from insisting he personally appear in court to respond to questions involving police arrest of Senator Dino Melaye.

But delivering judgment in the suit yesterday, Tsoho, held that the IG’s suit constitute an abuse of court process.

Tsoho in his judgment upheld the argument canvassed by the defendants that the suit, as filed by the plaintiff is subjudice.

Justice Tsoho said he didn’t see any harm that would have been caused if the Police boss had honoured the invitation of the Senate.

“I hold that the Plaintiff (Inspector-General of Police) ought to have honoured the invitation of the Senate, instead of running to the court to stop the Senate from investigating him.

“The action of the Plaintiff amounts to an abuse of court process and, it is hereby struck out”, Justice Tsoho held.

The judge, also said the IG ought to have honoured the second invitation of the Senate on him, having failed to respond to the first one as he was on an official assignment to Bauchi State with President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, Justice Tsoho returned another suit the IG filed against the Senate and its President to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati for re-assignment to another Judge for hearing and adjudication.

“This suit is similar to the one I just delivered judgment on and it will be in the interest of justice if this suit is returned to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another Judge.

“Consequently, this suit is hereby returned to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another Judge”, Justice Tsoho held.

IG had, in his suit prayed the court to restrain the Senate and its President, Bukola Saraki or their agents or any committee from insisting that he must appear before the upper legislative chambers in person, to the exclusion of any of his subordinate officers.

The IG also explained to the court why he could not honour the Senate invitation in person, saying he was “directed by the President to be among the presidential entourage embarking on a two-day official trip to Bauchi State and therefore on the said April 26, 2018, he was in Bauchi State on an assignment.

He added that, “As a result of the above development, he then directed and delegated the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Operations, an Assistant Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner of Police, Kogi State, who had adequate knowledge of the two subject matters which the Senate required briefing, to appear before the Senate on April 26, 2018 on his behalf”.

However, the plaintiff told the court that the Senate refused the appearance of the said officers.

Also, in the suit filed by his lawyer, Dr. Alex Izinyon (SAN) the IG urged the court to declare that the letters inviting him by the Senate dated April 25, 2018 and April 26, 2018, relating to pending criminal proceedings against Senator Dino Melaye in court of law is beyond its powers under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution and same is contrary to the Senate Standing Order, 2015, and the provision of section 6(6) (b) of the 1999 Constitution, and, therefore null, void and of no effect.

In an 11-paragraph affidavit in support to the suit, the IG said in the letter dated April 26, 2018, with the heading, “Invitation to brief the Senate on the inhuman treatment of Senator Dino Melaye over a matter that is pending in Court,” it clearly showed that the Senate is aware that the said Senator Dino Melaye is facing criminal charge in a court of law and that he is not answerable to the Senate but to the Judicial arm of Government trying the matter.

The deponent, Lukman Fagbemi, averred that the said Senator Dino Melaye is facing a charge of criminal conspiracy and illegal possession of firearms before a court of competent jurisdiction in Kogi State.

Citing the case law in IG vs. Kabiru Seidu, aka Osama & 3 others, the plaintiff argued that once the charge is before a court of competent jurisdiction, it is only the Judicial arm of Government that adjudicates and disposes of the matter one way or the other and not subject to oversight functions of the Senate under section 88 of the 1999 Constitution, as claimed by the Senate.

He further argued that the Senate Standing Order prohibits any reference to any matter in which any judicial decision is pending, in this case the charge before the court in Lokoja, Kogi State is still pending.

In addition, the IG submitted that there is no way the discussion on Dino Melaye’s case by the Senate will not relate to or impact on the matter in court, that under the 1999 Constitution, and the Police Act, the holder of his office (IGP), can delegate or direct the carrying out of its functions by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Assistant Inspector General of Police and Commissioner of Police.