Court Strikes Out Ambode’s Suit Seeking to Stop Lawmakers’ Probe

The Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday struck out a suit filed by former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, seeking to restrained members of the state House of Assembly from probing him over purchase over the purchase of 820 buses.

In a ruling over a preliminary objections filed by the lawmakers, Justice Yetunde Adesanya held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to stop them from going ahead with the probe.

Justice Adesanya described Ambode’s suit as an attempt to invoke judicial interference in the powers of the legislature.

The judge pointed out that the ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the former governor was a fact-finding committee and that an investigation is not an indictment.

She held, “The claimant (Ambode) has not been indicted. An invitation by an agency of government cannot in anyway cause a breach of the threat of the fundamental rights of the claimant.

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“I hereby find that the claimant’s action is an invitation to the court to cripple the legislative exercise of the statutory power of the Lagos State House of Assembly under Section 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution.

“That is not the function of the court, and no court of law should accede such invitation. The claimant’s suit is hereby struck out.

“The claimant, in this instance, has not been indicted by the House of Assembly neither has the committee indicted the claimant by a mere invitation by summons to appear before it,” the judge stated.

Justice Adesanya further held that an invitation by the committee did not constitute a beach of the former governor’s fundamental right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

“The ad-hoc committee is yet to carry out its constitutional function as contained in Section 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

“Assuming that the claimant’s claim of bias by the constituted ad-hoc committee is real and well founded that some members of the committee had concluded that the claimant is guilty of the allegation before inviting him to appear before the committee, this will still not amount to a threat to his fundamental right to fair hearing because the whole exercise is nothing more than an investigation,” the Judge ruled.

Ambode had filed the suit against the State House of Assembly, its Speaker Mudashiru Obasa and the House Clerk, Mr A.A Sanni.

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

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

He asked for 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.

His lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, told the court that the lawmakers need to act in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

Oyetibo had also claimed that the former governor’s rights under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution was being violated.

He submitted, “His case is that the exercise of the lawmakers 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.

Counsel to the lawmakers, Olukayode Enitan (SAN) on his part 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 instead he ran to court.

20th June 2024
Nigerian Pantagraph