Alex Enumah in Abuja
A move by former Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa to stop the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) from investigating him, over claims of invasion of privacy of the office of the president of the Court of Appeal has suffered a setback.
This is following the refusal of a Federal High Court, Abuja to restrain the two government agencies from investigating and prosecuting him for possibly influencing some of the decisions of her wife during her tenure as a judicial officer.
In a judgment on Tuesday, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the suit by the former senator lacked merit and subsequently dismissed it.
Senator Bulkachuwa is the husband of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, a former President of the Court of Appeal.
While speaking during the valedictory session of the 9th National Assembly, the senator from Bauchi State had reminded his colleagues of how he had assisted them one way or the other through his wife when she was in office.
The statement drew strong condemnation from both within and outside the judiciary, prompting moves by ICPC and DSS to investigate the veracity of the statement and also the level of culpability of the former president, if there was any.
But before investigation could commence the senator rushed to a Federal High Court in Abuja to prevent his investigation on grounds of immunity.
In his judgment, Justice Ekwo held that Bulkachuwa, being a lawmaker, ought to understand the implication of the statement that he made on the floor of the Senate.
Ekwo pointed out that the legislative immunity which Bulkachuwa relied upon to argue his case does not avail him.
“It is the duty of every law-abiding citizen to assist and cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their quest to carry out their statutory function.
“It is only where a law enforcement agency breaches the fundamental right of a citizen in the process of carrying out their statutory function, then a cause of action could be said to have arisen,” Ekwo held.
Bulkachuwa had sued the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the National Assembly clerk, DSS, ICPC and the Nigeria Police Force as first to fifth defendants respectively.
The plaintiff asked the court to declare that he “is covered, privileged and protected by the parliamentary immunity as enshrined in Section 1 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017 and freedom of speech and expression made thereto is privileged”.
He also prayed the court to declare that without exhausting the internal disciplinary mechanism, recommendations and approval of the 9th Senate, no other law enforcement agent of the Federal Government, including the defendants can invite any member of the Senate for questioning/interview.
However, the court held that Bulkachuwa’s utterance on the floor of the National Assembly on June 10, was not covered by Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
”The provision is that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference,” Ekwo stated.
According to the judge, the clear words of Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) cannot be interpreted to mean that a person can say anything he likes.
“In a formal setting like that plenary session or committee proceedings of the Senate, it is not expected-a person who is privileged to voice any expression will utter words or express opinion or impart ideas or give information that cannot be defended under the constitution.
“Upon studying the provision of Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), it is my opinion that the words uttered by the plaintiff on the floor of the Senate on Saturday, 10th June, 2023 was a confession of doing an act that is prohibited by law.
“When a person confesses that he influenced a judicial officer to help his friends and colleagues, such a person has gone beyond the limit of freedom of speech that is reasonably covered and protected by the provision of Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“A person who has used the opportunity given to him by the constitution to express himself freely and uses the opportunity to expose his actions or conduct which the law of the land criminalises, has unwittingly invited law enforcement agencies to question him.
“This is what the plaintiff did in this case.
I therefore find that the speech of the plaintiff on the floor of the Senate on June 10, was a confession of illegal act and Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) cannot be invoked to cover such and I so hold,” he declared.
In the viral video clip on June 12, Senator Bulkachuwa said his wife had assisted his colleagues at the National Assembly, while serving as a judge.
“I look at faces in this chamber whom have come to me and sought for my help when my wife was the President of the Court of Appeal.
“And I must thank particularly, my wife, whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while she was in office, and she has been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment, and extended her help to my colleagues.
“I did my best and in most cases I succeeded,” Senator Bulkachuwa had said, while the then Senate President Ahmed Lawan interjected him.