The Nasarawa state House of Assembly on Wednesday directed the police to arrest the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Innocent Lagi, for allegedly scaling the fence of the Assembly to enable him to serve a court injunction on the lawmakers.
Following the outcome of last Saturday’s local government election in the state – where the All Progressive Congress won in six local councils and the Peoples Democratic Party in four – the Assembly had summoned the Chairman and members of the Nasarawa State Independent Electoral Commission (NASIEC) to appear it to answer questions over the conduct of the election.
However, the state Attorney-General obtained and attempted to serve the Assembly with a court order restraining it from interfering with the activities of the commission.
He drove to the Assembly with two court bailiffs in his car but was prevented from entering by police officers at the entrance to the complex.
The Assembly later accused the commissioner of scaling the fence to gain access and called for his arrest and removal from office.
But in this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Lagi narrates what happened on the day in question, saying he didn’t scale the fence but only jumped over the gate of the complex.
How true is it that you jumped the fence?
I didn’t jump any fence. I didn’t have to jump any fence. But let’s assume I jumped the fence: The law allows me as the chief law officer of the state. The law also allows me an excuse whatever the irregularity in the process I took to serve the process which I did by virtue of Section 41 of the sheriff and the civil process act. So there was no law broken absolutely.
Let me understand you clearly. You mean you didn’t jump the fence?
No I didn’t jump the fence.
Okay. Is it true you were there to serve a court injunction?
It is on record that on Monday the House of Assembly passed a resolution asking NASIEC chairman and members to appear before it. By Monday night I had to work. A case was filed on Tuesday morning and an injunction was granted on Tuesday morning. The High Court complex shares a fence with the House of Assembly building. Now because of the urgency and the shortness of time between when they passed the resolution and when they need this people to appear and the necessity to stop the subversion of the constitution and the jurisdiction of the Electoral tribunals, there was no time within which to serve the notice. So as soon as the order was granted, I picked up two bailiffs of the court and went straight to the House of Assembly to effect the service of this notice so that the constitution is not subverted.
Are you saying that you didn’t go to serve them personally but that you went with bailiffs?
I went with the bailiffs to serve them. The law allows either me or the bailiffs to serve them. So there was no wrong done even if I choose to serve.
But the bone of contention is that you scaled the Assembly fence.
You see, let’s do this, when you get to the House of Assembly you don’t see a fence, you see a gate . The picture will show you that I was at the gate and the majority leader of the House of Assembly locked the gate and went into the chambers of the House of Assembly with the key. All those actions were to prevent the service of this order on them. Now I swore to defend the constitution and if I have a valid court order restraining them from that action, I believe that I am armed with a weapon to stop the activities of the House of Assembly and NASIEC it self. The law also says that even if I dropped from the roof of the chamber of the House of Assembly, that service may be irregular but I am allowed to do that. This is the point I want everybody to take. At what point would we say my oath of office to defend the constitution starts or stops?
As I said earlier, the controversy is about you scaling the fence.
I didn’t scale any fence, there is no fence on the gate, I didn’t scale a fence. I wasn’t even close to the fence of the House of Assembly.
What of the gate? Did you scale the gate?
Yes I have to go over the gate, I went over the gate, yes.
So you climbed the gate not the fence?
It is not climbing the fence. You know the gate in the House of Assembly is simply a barrier. Look it is just a barrier. Let’s not sound as if it is a gate like a gate . You go to the House of Assembly, you know that is not a gate.
So that thing you are calling a barrier you only scaled it to effect the service?
I jumped over it, yes to serve the process.
Were you arrested by the police or invited
What I remember is that Hon Orogu, a member of the house of assembly, assaulted me, tore my suit and the police rescued me from their hands and took me to the security room first of all at the entrance of the House of Assembly. Then all the members came out shouting and calling me a thief. At last, the police told me that for my safety they are getting an armoured Personnel Carrier ( APC ) to get me out of the premises.
What action are you planning to take?
There is no way that as a law officer I will watch the law broken. That was what I was trying to explain to you. I have cited the law that told you what they did was trying to subvert the constitution.
Any action over the assault.
Definitely. That is a criminal action and I do intend to file a charge against whoever touched my person.
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