By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
LAST Tuesday, the 8th House of Representatives decided to summon the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, over the Kogi Assembly crisis where five is bigger than 15.
Their verdict was unanimous as the House resolved to summon Malami and the Inspector General of Police, Mr Solomon Arase, to appear before it within two weeks.
Malami, according to the lawmakers, must tell Nigerians where he derived the power to open the Kogi House of Assembly after both legislative chambers of the National Assembly had resolved it should be sealed.
The two chambers had taken a resolution where they directed the IGP to seal the Kogi State Assembly over the crisis that engulfed the parliament and the House of Reps took over the functions of the state legislature pending the resolution of the crisis.
But the AGF told the IGP to disregard the National Assembly directive as it was advisory.
This did not go down well with the 360lawmakers in the Green Chamber.
The decision to summon Malami and Arase followed a motion on matters of urgent public importance brought by Hon. Osai Nicholas Osai (PDP, Delta), calling attention to what he tagged as “sheer impunity and usurpation of legislative and judicial powers by the AGF as he allegedly directed that the complex be opened to the five members”.
Throwing his weight behind Ossai’s position, House Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila (APC, Lagos), said: “As leader of this House and as a parliamentarian, I have a responsibility to go beyond partisan consideration and also to defend the integrity of the legislature.
“Now I’ve seen the said letter and the AGF’s reasons for supporting what’s going on in Kogi. And he said it has to do with the security of the state. And I bet to disagree with him because the issue is purely on a point of law. And the law states that ‘once a state Assembly is unable to perform its function, then the National Assembly can take over its function under the Constitution.
“But to now open the gate of the Assembly for five members to sit and deliberate, then that AGF has gone beyond his brief and he’s suggesting that the National Assembly cannot perform it’s function as enshrined in the constitution.
“And going by the rule of this House, a matter can only be considered prejudicial only in the opinion of the Speaker, it’s discussion will inpugne on its outcome, then we can’t touch. But I believe that the AGF is of a sound mind and knows what he’s doing. But for him to direct the IGP asking him to open the gate for five members to conduct legislative business, then he must explain where he got his powers”.
At this juncture, Speaker Yakubu Dogara waded in saying : “Honestly, this is a very serious issue. And the presumption of authority to open the gate of a House that had been taken over by the National Assembly is for me unthinkable. I want to sincerely believe that the AGF who’s the number one law officer of the nation is not the author of this letter”.
Hon. Aliyu Sani Madaki (APC, Kano), in his submission asked whether the AGF is truly the number one legal adviser to Mr President.
Hon. Mojid Alabi submitted thus: “I’m not bothered that the AGF has behaved this way, because it’s a known fact that the principle of democracy rests on separation of powers. So since when did the AGF assumed the position of the legislature or believing that the National Assembly is wrong in taking over the function of Kogi Assembly? I’m of the opinion that the office of the AGF be separated from that of the Minister of Justice”.
Deputy Whip of the House, Hon. Pally Iriase, who led the House adhoc committee which carried out a fact-finding assignment on the Kogi crisis, narrated his experience in the course of carrying out the assignment.
He said: “As far as this issue is concerned, they have not brought any court process against this House. I stand to be quoted. When we were on our way to Kogi on our fact finding mission, I got a text from the factional Speaker, Mohammed Imam, that there was a court injunction barring the House from interfering in the internal affairs of the Assembly. And I asked that he made the said injunction available on our arrival so that we can be formally served as members of the House. And there was none by the time we got there. So that was to tell you that there was no such thing.
“Only for the AGF to later tell the public that there was an injunction served on the National Assembly and then instructing the IGP to open the Assembly for the renegade lawmakers to hold legislative session. So I urge that this motion be treated with all the seriousness it deserves”.
Hon. Tajudeen Yusuf (PDP, Kogi) said: “I want to state clearly that there’s no where in our Constitution where the AGF has the powers to undo what the National Assembly has done”.
A 15-man adhoc Committee, led by House Leader, Gbajabiamila, was set up by Dogara to investigate the matter and report back to the House within two weeks.