John Alechenu and Sunday Aborishade
A Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to appear before it on Tuesday to answer questions on the ongoing investigation into the alleged forgery of the Senate Standing Order 2015.
The judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in his ruling, a copy of which was made available to our correspondent on Saturday, asked Arase to appear in court on August 4 to give reasons why the prayers sought by the plaintiff in his ex parte application should not be granted.
Kolawole gave the directive while ruling on an ex parte application by the senator representing Enugu-East Senatorial District, Gilbert Nnaji, seeking to restrain the IGP and the Attorney-General of the Federation from taking further steps on the investigation of alleged forgery in the Senate’s rules.
Rather than granting Nnaji’s prayer, Kolawole ordered the IG to appear in court on Tuesday to tell the court why it should not grant the request contained in the plaintiff’s ex parte motion.
Nnaji, through his counsel, Mr. P. J Nwokolo, had on Monday urged Kolawole to, among others, restrain further investigation of the allegation and publish its report.
The suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/646/15, was filed before the release and sending of the Police Report to the AGF’s office for further action.
The IGP and the AGF are the two respondents to the suit.
Ruling on the ex parte application shortly after Nnaji’s lawyer moved it on Monday, Justice Kolawole held that he could not grant the restraining order at the level of ex parte hearing, since it was the same issue the plaintiff canvassed in their substantive suit.
He held that he needed to afford both the IGP and the AGF to be heard before taking a decision on the ex parte prayers.
The court also refused to grant the prayer for accelerated hearing on the grounds that it lacked the power to abridge the 30 days which the defendants were entitled to without their consent. It, however, ordered the plaintiff to serve the court processes on the defendants.
The judge also described as a little bit worrisome, the involvement of the police being an agency of the executive arm of government, in the case by inviting for questioning, certain members of the Senate.
He said, “The court is a bit wary on an ex parte proceeding to allow the plaintiff (Nnaji) to have his day in court because the courts are not created or established to supervise the National Assembly in the way and manner it will run its own constitutional duties, except where its acts border on a substantial infraction of the constitution, which goes beyond its own internal rules or procedure, or the application of its standing order.
“To do otherwise is to work to subvert the hallowed constitutional principles of separation of powers upon which the machinery of government is proposed to be run and to be operated.
“My decision is not to make orders directing both parties to maintain status quo as it is often misinterpreted by both parties.
“Rather, I will direct that the defendants, who had already been served with the originating summons, and the plaintiff’s motion of notice, shall on the return date, show cause why the orders being sought by the plaintiff on his motion ex parte dated and filed on 23-07-15, shall not be granted.”
The alleged forged Senate Standing Order was used for the conduct of the election which brought in the current leadership of the National Assembly on June 9, 2015.
Ike Ekweremadu, who emerged as the Deputy Senate President from the said election which took place shortly after the proclamation of the National Assembly, is representing Enugu-West while Nnaji, who went to court, is from Enugu-East.
The deputy senate president was among the senators and the management of the National Assembly, including the Clerk, Salisu Maikasuwa, questioned by the police over the alleged crime.
APC govs may seek withdrawal of court cases
There are strong indications that governors of the All Progressives Congress, under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, will seek for the withdrawal of ongoing litigation against the senate leadership.
It was learnt in Abuja on Saturday that the Governor Adams Oshiomhole-led committee set up by the PGF to mediate in the senate crisis is likely to push for an out-of-court settlement.
Senators opposed to the process leading to the election of Saraki had on July 27 filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking the court to nullify the inauguration of the 8th Senate carried out by the management of the National Assembly, on June 9.
A source in the PGF, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, explained that nothing was “off the table.”
He said, “The governors as well as the party are favourably disposed to putting this ugly situation behind them.
“There is a very high probability that the (Oshiomhole-led) committee will seek the discontinuance of court cases relating to the events of June 9 in order to get the two sides to sit on a round table.
“Besides, the party’s constitution, specifically Article 21 (x) encourages party members to exhaust all avenues for redress provided for by the party before going to court.”
On their part, senators under the aegis of Like Minds Senators, who spearheaded the emergence of Senator Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate, said taking the matter to court was antithetical to the peace process.
The spokesperson for the senate, who is also a member of the LMS, Senator Dino Melaye, argued that the decision of some members of the Senate Unity Forum to embark on litigation amounted to lack of respect for party elders and President Muhammadu Buhari.
Melaye said, “We are already telling our colleagues who had gone to court that it will be difficult to achieve true reconciliation when they still have cases in the court. It is better to sit down on the table and engage in a dialogue.
“A situation whereby there is still a case pending in court and petitions not yet withdrawn from the police would not allow for smooth reconciliation in the true sense of it.”
Attempts to get the reaction of the spokesman for the SUF, Senator Kabir Marafa, were unsuccessful.
Calls to his mobile phone indicated that it was switched off, while a response to a text message sent to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report on Saturday evening.
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