A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday has restrained the House of Representatives from investigating or carrying out any disciplinary action against the leader of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House, Hon. Kingsley Chinda and his team.
There has been reports making the round that the House was set to take disciplinary including suspension against Chinda, Hon. Chukwuma Onyeama, Hon. Ajibola Muraino and Hon. Yakubu Barde are recognised as minority leaders by their party, the PDP.
The planned action may not be unconnected with the conclusion of the investigation by the House committee on Ethics and Privileges ordered by the House mandating the committee led by Hon. Kolawole Lawal to investigate the lawmakers for parading themselves of as leaders the PDP caucus in the green chamber.
The House decision was part of the resolution arrived at following a motion sponsored 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.
It was gathered that as a result of the rumoured planned suspension, Chinda approached the Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order restraining the House from taking any action against him and three others.
A copy of the court order 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 of representative, Hon. Kolawole Lawal, Hon. Ibrahim Misau, among others.
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Justice I.E Ekwo also 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.
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 response.
The judge said “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 of Representatives.
“Parties are hereby ordered to maintain the status quo existing before the proceedings of the House of Representatives of Wednesday, 6th November, 2019, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion On Notice filed before this Honourable Court.”
The case was adjourned to 7th February, 2020 for hearing on the Motion on Notice and the substantive matter as the case may be.
When contacted, Chinda confirmed that the matter was in court, but he declined to comment on it.
It was however gathered that some members of House are mounting pressures on the House Committee Chairman on Ethics and Privileges to lay same the report, despite the court order which restrained the House from taking any further step.
A member of the Committee who would not want his name in print alleged that the pressure from some members of House was so strong that the chairman had to cave in.
He said, “we don’t have to fight the cause of a group of members against another group. It will be a sad commentary in all spheres as the coffin of Representative democracy and voice of opposition must have been sent to the morgue and this is not good for a vibrant House.
“If this pressure continues and the report is laid and the four lawmakers suspended, then it’s goodbye to democracy in Nigeria.”
Another member of the House said that since the Chairman and members of the Ethics and Privileges were personally sued and a court order made and duly served laying the purported report would just expose them to contempt of court and possible future imprisonment.