More than three weeks after a Supreme Court ruling ordering the inauguration of a federal lawmaker, Dorathy Mato, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has refused to obey the order.
The Supreme Court in June sacked Herman Hembe as the lawmaker representing Konshisha/Vandekiya federal constituency of the House of Representatives. The court declared Mrs. Mato as the authentic candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which won the election.
The apex court ordered that Mrs. Mato be sworn-in immediately and that Mr. Hembe be made to return all the salaries and allowances he has received since 2015 while occupying the seat illegally.
On the day the Supreme Court gave that ruling, it also sacked a senator from Taraba State, Abubakar Danladi, and declared Shuaibu Lau as the person validly elected to represent Taraba North in the Nigerian Senate.
While Senate President Bukola Saraki obeyed the court ruling and swore in Mr. Lau, Mr. Dogara has failed to obey the apex court and has refused to administer an oath on Mrs. Mato.
PREMIUM TIMES checks show that Mrs. Mato has been to the National Assembly several times with the expectation that she would be sworn in, but the speaker simply refused to do so.
Speaking on behalf of Mrs. Mato on Thursday, Maureen Acka, a lawmaker from the Benue State House of Assembly, who accompanied her to the House of Representatives, said Mrs. Mato has met all requirements had no reason not to be sworn in as ordered by the Supreme Court.
“They asked to wait that they were coming and we all waited patiently, only for them to come out and nothing happened. Papers have been filled, and she has done all the things required of her,” she said.
“This is really strange… I just pray and hope that this is not some kind of a game because it will not be right. We know the law.”
“I’m a member of the APC. I was in ACN before… she (Mato) is a honourable person.”
Ms. Acka said it would be bad if the case turned out being a case of gender discrimination.
Sources at the House told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Dogara has refused to obey the court because of his closeness to Mr. Hembe.
“Hembe is one of the closest lawmakers to Dogara. He was one of those who mobilised against Gbajabiamila (Femi, the House Leader) and even Jibrin (Abdulmumuni).
“The speaker is in a tight situation on the matter,” the source close to Mr. Dogara said.
Mr. Gbajabiamila lost the speakership to Mr. Dogara while Mr. Jibrin is currently suspended from the House after he accused the speaker and others of budget padding.
Another legislative aide to a principal officer of the House said all that was required was for Mrs. Mato to beg Mr. Hembe.
“The Speaker will only swear her in when Hembe tells him to,” the aide said, seeking anonymity as he was not permitted by his principal to speak to reporters.
In his reaction, Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesperson of the House, told journalists at the National Assembly that Mrs. Mato had not yet met the requirements to be sworn in.
He also ruled out the possiblilty of gender discrimination.
“It’s not true that the speaker has refused to swear her in because she is a woman,” he said.
“A colleague of mine from Adamawa state lost his seat after a court of appeal ruling. He was replaced by a woman named Talatu, she was sworn in immediately.”
“So, you can see it is not an issue of gender bias. I know, as a matter of fact, that if there is any pronouncement by the court, there are also some processes you have to undergo in the house before you are sworn in.
“I’m not aware that that has been done. I have to look at it well. If all the necessary things have been done, I don’t think there is any reason that she will not be sworn in.”
Mr. Namdas did not list those processes he claimed may not have been met.
HEMBE RETURNS TO COURT
Meanwhile, Mr. Hembe has through his lawyer filled a motion dated July 18 in the Supreme Court, seeking an order invalidating the judgement the court.
He described the judgement that ousted him from the National Assembly as “an accidental slip” and is asking the Supreme Court to reverse its judgement.
He is also asking the Supreme Court to set aside the consequential orders made against him.
Stating the grounds of his application, Mr. Hembe noted that “this Honourable Court (SC) struck out as incompetent, the appellant’s grounds of appeal numbered 1,2,6,9,10 and 11 as well as the appellant’s issues 2 and 3 formulated from those grounds. The court also struck out issue 2 in the 1st respondent’s brief, which had been formulated from the said incompetent grounds. By so doing, this Honourable Court struck out the grounds of appeal that had questioned the decision of the court of appeal not to hear the matter on the merits as well as the two issues that it resolved in favour of the appellant may have given this Honourable Court the jurisdiction to consider the case on its merits under section 22 of the Supreme Court Act.”
He said “in spite of the above, this Honourable Court, in error arising from an accidental slip, proceeded as if the said grounds had not been struck out and determined the matter on the merits and made far reaching consequential orders against the applicant (Hembe) in favour of the appellant/respondent(Mato), when the court had no jurisdiction.
“In error arising from an accidental slip, this Honourable Court granted claim IV in the appellant/respondent’s originating summons, (which was that the primaries conducted by the 2nd respondent on 7th-10th December, 2014 were null and void) and further held that the appellant/respondent was the winner of the voided primaries, when the court had no jurisdiction to do so.
“Also in error arising from an accidental slip, the Court further held that the appellant/respondent was the candidate of the 2nd respondent (APC) at the general election, when the court had no jurisdiction to do so.”
“In error arising from an accidental slip, this Honourable Court ordered the applicant(Hembe) to refund all salaries, allowances, and emoluments the applicant had collected from the House of Representatives, when the court had no jurisdiction to do so.
“This Honourable Court possess the power ex debitio justitiae to set aside the consequential orders made in this matter and substitute therefore an order that meets the justice of the case, which is that the matter be heard on the merits by the trial court.”
Mr. Hembe is thus asking the Supreme Court to reverse its own ruling, a suit analysts believe is being used to delay his opponent from being sworn in.