Buses Probe: Court Rules on Ambode’s Suit against Lawmakers Feb 27


An Ikeja High Court will on February 27 rule on the validity of a suit filed by former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos, seeking an injunction restraining some of the state lawmakers from probing him over purchase of 820 buses.

Justice Yetunde Adesanya fixed the date after hearing the submissions of the counsel to Ambode, Mr Tayo Oyetibo, and counsel to the lawmakers, Mr Olukayode Enitan (SAN).

“This case is adjourned to February 27, 2020, for ruling,” Adesanya said.

Earlier, Ambode’s counsel told the court that the lawmakers should act in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Oyetibo said that the former governor was seeking six regulatory reliefs and two injunctive orders against the lawmakers.

“The claimant (Ambode) has not come here to say that the lawmakers do not have power of investigation; he is saying that the exercise of that power is subject to the provisions of the Constitution.

“He is saying that his rights under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution is violated.

“His case is that the exercise of that power is subject to the provision of the Constitution particularly the right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36.

“Secondly, the court will determine whether the exercise of the power of the House of Assembly is subject to the provisions of the Constitution under Section 128.

“If the court answers the second question in the affirmative, it has the right to ask if those rights have been violated by the House of Assembly,” the counsel submitted.

According to Oyetibo, the first three of the six regulatory reliefs sought by Ambode deal with the scope of the powers of the House of Assembly as provided in Section 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution.

He said that the fourth relief challenged the constitutionality of the Lagos State Appropriation Law, 2018.

“We are asking your lordship to determine the validity of a law or provision that will require the executive to come back to the House to seek disbursement of funds approved under the budget.

“The fifth relief is tied to the fourth relief: The lawmakers have been accusing the claimant of breach of budgetary approval. If there is no need for budgetary approval, they cannot accuse him of a breach,” he said.

He urged the court to dismiss the objection of the lawmakers with substantial costs.

Before Oyetibo’s submission, the counsel to the lawmakers, Enitan, had via a preliminary objection dated November 14, 2019, challenged the competence of the court to hear the suit based on three grounds.

“The first ground is that it is ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority) – that is, the power of the court to interfere with any investigation of the Lagos State House of Assembly or any arm of government based on the principle of separation of powers.

“The second ground is that the suit is preemptive and premature and not actionable, and the third ground is that it discloses no reasonable cause of action.

“I urge the court to decline jurisdiction as this suit is premature,” he said.

Enitan said that rather than accept an invitation to attend a probe sought by the House of Assembly, Ambode “rushed” to the court.

“The claimant has not been indicted; he has been invited to come and explain some things to us, but he ran to court.

“I urge the court to dismiss the suit,” he prayed.

Ambode had instituted the civil suit against the state House of Assembly, its Speaker Mudashiru Obasa and the House Clerk, Mr A.A Sanni.

Other respondents in the suit are Mr Fatai Mojeed, the Chairman of an Ad hoc Committee set up by the House to probe the procurement of the buses, and eight members of the committee.

The members of the ad hoc committee are: Mr Gbolahan Yishawu, Mr A.A Yusuf, Mr Yinka Ogundimu, Mrs Mojisola Meranda, Mr M.L Makinde, Mr Kehinde Joseph, Mr Temitope Adewale and Mr Olanrewaju Afinni.

Ambode seeks an injunction restraining the lawmakers to compel him to appear before them pursuant to a resolution passed by the House of Assembly on August 27, as well as any other resolutions passed in respect of the probe.

The former governor also seeks an injunction restraining the respondents from representing or continuing to represent to the public that he procured 820 buses in breach of budgetary approval.

Ambode also seeks a court declaration that the provisions of Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 9 of the Appropriation Law of Lagos State, 2018, requiring the approval of the House of Assembly before certain expenditure of money is incurred by the executive arm, is not in accordance with constitutional provisions. (NAN)