By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Senator Ovie Omo-Agege who is representing Delta Central, on Thursday, asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to commit the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to prison for disobeying court orders.
In a form 49 (contempt of court charge) he filed before the court, Omo-Agege, alleged that Saraki had since refused to comply with the judgment that nullified his suspension from the Senate.
Omo-Agege’s lawyer, Dr. Alex Iziyon, SAN, told the court that though his client was sequel to the May 10 judgment, allowed entry into the Senate chambers, he said that Saraki has refused to okay the payment of his entitlements.
“My client has since resumed, but he has not been paid his entitlements. That is why we want this court to summon the Respondents to show cause why they should not be committed to prison for refusing to comply with judgment of this court”, Iziyon, SAN, submitted.
He further applied for leave of the court to serve a copy of the contempt charge on both the Senate and Saraki, through substituted means.
“My lord it has been very difficult to serve them”, Omo-Agege’s lawyer added.
Meantime, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba who is currently sitting as a vacation judge, said the court would communicate a hearing date to the Applicant.
It will be recalled that the court had on May 16, refused a joint application that Senate and Saraki, who were sued as 1st and 2nd Defendants, filed for the stay of execution of the judgment that voided Omo-Agege’s suspension from attending plenary for 90 legislative days.
The Defendants told the court that they have gone before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal to challenge the judgment.
The Senate and Saraki had through their lawyer, Mr. Mahmud Magaji, SAN, prayed the court to suspend omo-Agege’s resumption, pending hearing and determination of the appeal against his recall.
The high court had in its judgment, held that the reason the Senate adduced for suspending Omo-Agege from plenary, was unconstitutional.
The court noted that the Ethics and Privileges Committee of the Senate recommended that Omo-Agege should be suspended to punish him for instituting legal action against the legislative house.
Justice Dimgba held that while the Senate has the powers to sanction its erring members to protect its integrity, he said no institution or authority has the powers to deny any citizen his right of access to the court.
Besides, the Judge noted that whereas sections 67(4) of the Senate Standing Rules 2014 and section 21(2) of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act, okayed the suspension of any erring lawmakers for 14 legislative days, the Senate went ahead and handed Omo-Agege 90 days suspension.
“The suspension of the plaintiff for 90 days is ultra-vires of powers of the 1st defendant (Senate)”, the court held, adding that “any suspension of member of the Senate such exceeds 14 days is null and void and unconstitutional”.
The court ordered the Senate to recall the plaintiff immediately and equally pay him any salary or allowance that accrued to him within the period he was illegally suspended.
The court however dismissed Omo-Agege’s claim that he was denied fair hearing by the Senate Committee, stressing that “documents before the court showed that the plaintiff was afforded the opportunity to be heard”.
It equally dismissed preliminary objections the Senate and Saraki filed to challenge its jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Justice Dimgba held that the court has powers under section 4(8) of the 1999 constitution to intervene in affairs of the Senate, “whether internal or external, when it acts beyond it’s powers or in breach of the constitution”.