Minority Leadership Crisis: Court Restrains House from Suspending Chinda, Others

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Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

A Federal High Court in Abuja has issued an order of interim injunction restraining the House of Representatives from further investigating or taking any disciplinary action, including suspension, against the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House, Hon. Kingsley Chinda, and others.

This followed media reports making the round last week that the leadership of the House was set to suspend Chinda and his three other colleagues-Hon. Chukwuma Onyeama, Hon. Ajibola Muraino and Hon. Yakubu Barde.

The planned suspension might not be unconnected with the conclusion of the investigation by the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges. The House had mandated the committee led by Hon. Kolawole Lawal to investigate the lawmakers for parading themselves as leaders the PDP caucus in the Green chamber.

The decision of the House to investigate the matter was consequent upon the adoption of a motion by Hon. Ben Igbakpa who alleged that the quartet were falsely parading themselves as leaders of his party, thus violating the standing rules and orders of the chambers.

Following the rumoured planned suspension, THISDAY gathered that Chinda approached the Federal High Court in Abuja, where he sought among others, an order restraining the House from taking any action against him and three others.

A copy of the court order cited by THISDAY showed that the plaintiffs in the case included Chinda, Chukwuma, Muraina and Barde, while the defendants are the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabamila; Clerk of the National Assembly, Clerk of the House, Hon. Kolawole Lawal, Hon. Ibrahim Misau among others.

The presiding Judge, Justice I.E Ekwo, granted leave to the plaintiffs to serve the originating summons and all other accompanying processes in the suit on the 1st to 20th defendants by substituted means through the Office of the Clerk to the National Assembly (2nd defendant) or by leaving copies of the originating summons and other accompanying processes with any staff of the 2nd defendant at his office at National Assembly Complex, P.M.B. 141, Garki, Three Arms Zone, Abuja.

The court also granted accelerated hearing and abridgment of time to seven days within which the defendants are to enter appearance and file their respective responses in defence of the suit.

“An order of interim injunction restraining the 4th to 20th defendants, any other Committee of the House of Representatives or the House itself from investigating or further investigating the plaintiffs and/or taking any disciplinary decision/action against them, including suspension or interfering/tampering with their legislative ‘duties, responsibilities and entitlements as members of the House.

“Parties are hereby ordered to maintain the status quo existing before the proceedings of the House of Representatives of November 6, 2019, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice filed before this court,” it stated.

The case was adjourned to February 7, 2020, for parties to be heard on the Motion on Notice or the substantive matter as the case may be.

When contacted, Chinda confirmed that the matter was in court, but declined to comment further on it.

However, THISDAY further gathered that some members of House leadership have allegedly mounted pressures on the House Committee Chairman on Ethics and Privileges to receive the report and lay same, despite a court order preserving the status quo which restrains the House from taking any further step.

A member of the committee, who pleaded anonymity, alleged that the pressure from some members of House leadership was so strong that the chairman had to cave in.