Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Othman Musa of an Abuja High Court yesterday quashed the criminal charge brought against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila by the African Peoples Party (APP) at the Grade 1 Area Court, Karishi, Abuja.
In the matter of an application for judicial review for an order of certiorari, Gbajabiamila in a motion on notice brought pursuant to Section 12 of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja Area Court Act, 2010, Order 44 Rule (A) and (2) of the High Court of the FCT Rules 2018, challenged the criminal proceedings instituted against him by the APP.
The party and Hon. Anas Mohammed who are respondents at the FCT High Court, had alleged at the Grade 1 Area Court, that Gbajabiamila lied on oath while filing Form CF001 of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the last general election to the effect that he was never convicted of any crime.
The respondents had contended that the Speaker was found guilty of professional misconduct by the State Bar of Georgia, United States of America in 2007.
But in a judgment delivered yesterday, Justice Musa quashed the criminal charge, which was filed against Gbajabiamila at the Grade 1 Area Court, Karishi, Abuja on the grounds that the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain and determine the matter.
“The lower court acted recklessly in a matter it has no jurisdiction to do so,” Justice Musa held.
In the suit marked: FCT/HC/BW/M/267/19, the judge further held that the allegation of disciplinary proceedings levelled against Gbajabiamila does not amount to a criminal conviction by a court of law.
Consequently, the court declared the proceedings and decisions of the Grade 1 Area Court of May 30, 2019, as “unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void.”
Justice Musa said if a false information was given by Gbajabiamila in the course of filing out his INEC Form CF001 as alleged by the respondents, a criminal charge ought to have been filed against the Speaker at either the Federal High Court or the FCT High Court as prescribed by the Electoral Act as amended.
“The 1st respondent (APP) is not a legal officer of INEC. Criminal matters are only enforceable by a law enforcement agency,” the judge said.
The judge held further that an indictment by a mere disciplinary committee or commission that is not a court of law recognised by the constitution does not amount to a criminal conviction.
“The order of 26 February, 2007 of the State Bar of Georgia, United States of America against Hon Gbajabiamila does not amount to a criminal offence known by any Nigerian law.
“I, therefore, hold the view that the direct criminal complaint against Gbajabiamila was misconceived.
“Having dutifully combed through all the facts and the laws that have been presented before the court, and having soberly reflected on the robust arguments of counsel in the matter, I am satisfied that the reliefs of the application (Gbajabiamila) are granted.
“Consequently, an order is hereby made nullifying the entire proceedings of the Grade 1 Area Court, Karishi, Abuja. The charges in suit no: CR/349/2019 and Motion No: M/19/2019 between African Peoples Party (APP) Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila are hereby quashed,” Justice Musa declared.