By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, knocked the House of Representatives, saying it acted illegally when it suspended its former Chairman on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, for 180 legislative days.
The court, in a judgement delivered by Justice John Tsoho, held that Jibrin acted rightly by exposing alleged “malfeasance” by leadership of the House with regard to the 2016 budget, to the appropriate anti-graft agency.
Tsoho maintained that Jibrin acted properly as he did not employ unlawful means to achieve his goal of exposing his corruption allegation against principal officers of the House of Reps to a law enforcement agency.
According to the court, leadership of the House ought to have “approached the law enforcement agency concerned to justify their actions by clearing themselves of the apparently nasty allegation.
“That is the approach that accords with democracy tenets. But the defendants discarded it and adopted approach aimed to gag the plaintiff.”
Tsoho held that Speaker of the House of Reps, Yakubu Dogara, the House of Reps itself, and its Clerk, who were sued as 1st to 3rd defendants before the court, “violated the plaintiff’s right to freedom of expression guaranteed by section 39 of the 1999 constitution, as amended.”
He dismissed as lacking in merit, a joint preliminary objection the defendants filed to challenge the powers of the court to meddle in an affair of the House.
The court, after nullifying Jibrin’s suspension, ordered that he should be paid all his salaries, allowances and other entitlements that accrued to him within the 180 days period.
It will be recalled that Jibrin was on September 28, 2016, suspended for 180 days, following corruption allegations he raised against principal officers of the House.
He had among other things, alleged that the officers, including the Speaker, Dogara, surreptitiously padded the 2016 budget with about N40billion.
Dissatisfied with his suspension, Jubrin, in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/Bl2/2016, prayed the court to declare that the resolution the House passed to suspend him was in breach of section 68 of the 1999 constitution.
Aside demanding for N1billion as damages, Jibrin urged the court to issue an order of injunction restraining the House of Reps from preventing him from participating in the Committees of the House or accessing the legislative chambers to perform his legislative duties.
Nevertheless, the court said it would not grant the N1bn damages since that leg of the prayers was earlier withdrawn by counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN.
The court equally held that the request for a restraining order was overtaken by events since Jibrin had since returned to the House upon the expiration of his suspension period.