Court nullifies suspension of pro-Buhari senator, Omo-Agege

Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta-APC. [Photo credit: THISDAYLIVE]
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, Delta-APC. [Photo credit: THISDAYLIVE]

A court has nullified the suspension of Ovie Omo-Agege from the Senate.

Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court gave the ruling on Thursday afternoon.

Mr Dimgba said the Senate’s decision regarding the suspension, as well as the pattern adopted by the National Assembly, was constitutionally defective.

Mr Omo-Agege, representing Delta Central, had approached the court, after the Senate’s committee on ethics and privileges began investigating his comments condemning the Senate over the National Assembly’s decision to amend the electoral act.

During a deliberation in February, Mr Omo-Agege alleged a conspiracy by his colleagues against President Muhammadu Buhari, following the decision of the legislature to amend section 25 of the electoral act.

That amendment, which was subsequently rejected by President Buhari, would have altered the sequence of the 2019 general elections.

In reaction to the comments made by Mr Omo-Agege, the Kogi Central senator, Dino Melaye, called for an investigation of his colleague’s statement.

Subsequently the Senate committee investigated the matter and recommended a suspension of Mr Omo-Agege for 181 days.

After reviewing the committee’s report, Mr Omo-Agege was suspended by the Senate for 90 legislative days.

Ahead of his suspension, Mr Omo-Agege approached the court, challenging the decision of the Senate to investigate his allegations.

Mr Omo-Agege asked the court to determine whether the Senate had constituted authority to investigate and even discipline a senator, whose case is already before a court of law.

In a lengthy judgement delivered on Thursday, the court held that the seven reliefs sought by the applicant could not be given.

The judge said Mr Omo-Agege’s submission that the Senate was wrong in proceeding with its investigation, was baseless.

He however added that despite the fact that the Senate had a constitutional duty to discipline it’s members, such disciplinary measures must comply with provisions of the law.

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According to the judge, although the plaintiff, as a senator, is not prohibited from holding a contrary view from his colleagues, the right to freedom of expression is not absolute.

The judge faulted Mr Omo-Agege’s decision to address journalists on the matter pending before the privileges committee, stressing that the sanctity of the National Assembly must be maintained at all times.

Reading through a part of the report submitted by the Senate committee, however, Mr Dimgba said the decision of the Senate to premise it’s suspension of Mr Omo-Agege on his resolve to approach the court was an affront on government and abuse of the Senate’s powers.

“Access to court is a constitutional right which cannot be taken away,” he said.

The judge said section 4 (8) provides that the exercise of legislative powers shall be subject to the decisions of the court. He also said the cited provision states that the Senate cannot take a decision that will tend to oust the functions of the Judiciary.

According to Mr Dimgba, where the actions of the Senate is found to be in violation of constitutional provisions, the section 4 (8) becomes fully applicable by the Judiciary.

The judge further ruled that constitutional provisions only allow the Senate to suspend its member for nor more than 14 days.

Subsequently, the judge ruled that the decision of the Senate to suspend Mr Omo-Agege for 90 days is a nullity.

The court therefore nullified Mr Omo-Agege’s suspension with immediate effect.

It further ruled that all outstanding salaries and allawances be paid to the senator.

Following his suspension, Mr Omo-Agege allegedly led thugs to invade the Senate during plenary and still its mace. Though the mace was later recovered, that matter is still being investigated by the police and the National Assembly.

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