Ndume Floors Senate, Saraki

Filed in News by on November 11, 2017 0 Comments

A judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Babatunde Quadri yesterday voided Senate’s suspension of a former Senate Leader, Senator Ali Ndume, for 90 legislative days.

The court also said Ndume committed no infractions by raising issues on the certificate of Senator Dino Melaye and alleged purchase of bullet-proof SUV by the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

It ordered the Senate President to pay all the salaries and outstanding allowances of Ndume since March 30 when he was suspended.

But the judge refused to award N500 million cost against the Senate, Saraki and Senator Anyanwu in the “spirit of engendering peace and harmony” in the chamber.

Following his suspension, Ndume had filed the suit against the Senate, the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki and the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Senator Samuel Anyanwu.

He sought the following reliefs:

Whether the suspension of the plaintiff as a Senator of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for 90 legislative days (6 months) with effect from 29th March, 2017 via a letter dated 30th March, 2017 is not a gross violation of his fundamental right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and the plaintiff’s privileges as a senator.
Whether the suspension of the plaintiff as a senator of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for 90 legislative days (6 months) via a letter of 30th March, 2017 is not in violation of section 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Whether the suspension of the plaintiff as a senator of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for 90 legislative days (6 months) with effect from 29th March, 2017 via a letter dated 30th March, 2017 is not in violation of sections 64(1) and 68 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A 9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
Whether the plaintiff is not entitled to be reinstated as a Senator of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and paid his outstanding salaries, allowances (however called) since March, 2017.
Whether if questions 1, 2 and 3 hereinabove are in the affirmative, the plaintiff is not entitled to general, exemplary and aggravated damages.
The plaintiff hereby seeks the following reliefs from this Honourable Court to wit:

A DECLARATION that the suspension of the plaintiff for 90 legislative days (6 months) as a Senator in the service of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria via a letter dated 30th March, 2017 for expressing as a matter of privilege the insinuations/allegations made online and in national newspapers that the invitation of the Comptroller-General of Customs was informed by seizure of the bullet proof SUV vehicle belonging to the Senate President purportedly cleared with fake National Assembly documents and the alleged first degree saga of Senator Dino Melaye is a violation of his fundamental right to fair hearing and freedom of expression as guaranteed by sections 36 and 39 of the extant Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Articles 7 (1) and 9 (2) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
A declaration that the suspension of the plaintiff for 90 legislative days (3 months) from the service of the Senate as a Senator in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with effect from 29th March, 2017 as contained in the letter of 30th March, 2017 is illegal, unlawful, unconstitutional as it was done in violation of sections 68 and 69 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)and Article 13 (1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act CAP A9 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
An order setting aside the purported suspension of the plaintiff from the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as contained in the aforesaid letter of 30th March, 2017.
An order directing the 1st and 2nd defendants to pay the plaintiff his outstanding salaries and allowances (however called) forthwith.
The sum of N500 million (five hundred million naira) being general, exemplary and aggravated damages for the aforesaid suspension of the plaintiff from the service of the Senate as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Any such order or other orders as the justice of the case may demand.
The counsel to the Senator, Mr. Marcel Oru, claimed that “there is no law that says a Senator can be suspended for 90 legislative days. If a Senator commits any simple infractions, he can be suspended for one day. Serious infractions attract 14-day suspension.

“Anything outside the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the law of the land, and the Senate Standing Orders is ultra vires, illegal, null and void. To suspend a senator, the infractions must be known to law. In this case, Senator Ndume has not violated any law because his submissions at the Senate Plenary were under Qualified Privilege.”

Ndume argued that his suspension was intended by the Senate leadership to get back at him for merely raising questions about issues relating to the conduct of privileged individuals in the Senate.

He noted that fellow legislators, who made similar observations in the past were neither suspended not penalised as was done to him under the Saraki-led Senate.

Ndume said: “Senators of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or members of the House of Representatives and, indeed, all legislators have the privilege to express themselves on the floor of the Senate or House of Reps and all previous matters as the present one have not attracted suspension or punitive action.

“In the scandal on variation in the name of Evan Enwerem, the Senator, who raised the matter was not suspended. In the certificate scandal involving Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, the member, who raised the issue was not punished after clearance of Masari.

“In the certificate scandal involving Hon. Dimeji Bankole, the member who raised the issue was not punished after the clearance of Bankole. In the certificate scandal involving Hon. Patricia Etteh, the member, who raised the issue was not punished after the investigation and clearance of Etteh,” Ndume had argued.

In the judgment yesterday, Justice Qaudri, while declaring Ndume’s suspension unlawful, urged members of the Senate, and particularly its leadership to “hold sacrosanct, their Standing Orders, Rule of Law and by extension, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Justice Quadri said Ndume’s suspension was done in violation of sections 68 and 69 of the Constitution and Article 13(1) of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement)Act.

The judge set aside the purported suspension as contained in the Senate’s letter of March 30, 2017.

Justice Quadri resolved questions 2, 3 and 4 in Ndume’s favour. The questions are in relation to whether the suspension was not unlawful and a violation of the plaintiff’s rights and whether Ndume was not entitled to be reinstated.

Having answered the three questions in the palintiff’s favour, the judge proceeded to grant his reliefs 2, 3, and 4.

He said: “Consequently, reliefs 2, 3 and 4 are hereby granted. The suspension of the plaintiff is hereby declared illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.

“The purported suspension, contained in the letter of March 30th 2017 is hereby set aside. The 1st and 2nd defendants (Saraki and the Senate) are hereby directed to pay the plaintiff his outstanding salaries and allowances forthwith.”

The judge declined to determine the 1st question, which related to whether the suspension was not a violation of his right to freedom of expression as expression as guaranteed in section 39 of the Constitution.

Justice Quadri said he found the determination of the question unnecessary in the cirscumstance.

The judge declined to grant Ndume’s request for N500 million damages against the defendants.

The judge, in rejecting the prayer, said: “It is intended to facilitate reconciliation in the Senate between the plaintiff and all other members of the Senate and bring peace, and nurture our nascent democracy.”

The Senate had claimed that it suspended Ndume on disciplinary ground.

He had jolted the Senate when it drew the attention of members to media report that the invitation of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, was due to seizure of a vehicle illegally imported by Saraki.

The Senate also suspended him for drawing attention to media report on alleged fake first degree certificate of Senator Dino Melaye.

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