The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Tuesday, ordered the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar, to appear before the Nigerian Senate for probe on allegations of misconduct brought against him in a public petition.
A 23-year-old security guard at the popular Banex Plaza, Wuse 2, Abuja, Clement Sargwak, had sent the petition to the Senate after he was assaulted by the CCT chairman on March 29 last year.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Umar was caught on camera slapping and kicking Mr Sargwak during a squabble between them over a parking space on the premises.
Mr Sargwak had petitioned the Senate through his lawyer, Timzing Ramnap, in quest of justice.
But Mr Umar filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop a probe into the matter by the Senate. He argued that the Senate lacked constitutional power to conduct a hearing on the complaint.
But delivering judgment on Tuesday, the judge, Inyang Ekwo, dismissed Mr Umar’s suit.
The court held that the case of the CCT chairman lacked merit and gave no cogent reason to stop the Senate from undertaking its constitutional functions.
The judge said Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution under which Mr Umar sought to be protected by the court did not confer any protection on him.
The judge further said as a public officer administering law relating to conduct of public officers, the plaintiff (Mr Umar) has no reason to institute the suit to stop the parliament from investigating a public petition seeking justice on moral standards.
The court also held that the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act 2010 was enacted by the National Assembly and as such, he is subject to investigation by the federal legislators.
Besides, the judge said Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act exposes Mr Umar to investigation by the National Assembly than other Nigerians.
The judge noted that it will be illogical for the CCT boss to seek to stop the senate probe as doing so will give an impression that he is above the law.
Mr Ekwo held that the declaratory prayers that were sought by Mr Umar for injunctions against the Senate could not be granted because the case lacked merit.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Senate directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Ayo Akinyelure, to probe the alleged assault reported to it by Mr Sargwak.
The petition was later laid during a plenary session of the Senate by Istifanus Gyang, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) senator representing Plateau North, the senatorial district from which Mr Sagwak hails.
The CCT chairman appeared before the committee on May 4, 2021, when he was given two weeks to respond to the allegations.
He was asked to return on May 18, 2021.
But on July 13, 2021, the CCT chairman filed a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 671/2021, to challenge the powers of the Senate to investigate him over the assault allegation.
The four defendants in the matter were – the Senate, Senate President, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions; and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
In the suit filed by Mr Umar’s lawyer, Sunday Edward, he urged the court to issue an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Senate, its members and agents from conducting or continuing to conduct investigations into the allegations of assault levelled against him via a petition submitted to the Senate.
Specifically, the plaintiff wanted the court to determine whether the alleged case of assault which took place at Banex Plaza in Abuja on March 29, 2021, formed part of the matters the Senate is constitutionally empowered to investigate or police functions.
He also asked it to determine whether the Senate and its Committee on Ethics and Public Petitions were competent to investigate or invite him in relation to the investigation of the allegation of assault and whether the powers of the Senate to conduct the investigation werre not governed or subject to the provision of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution.
The plaintiff had also asked the court to declare that the purported case of assault that took place on March 29, 2021, did not form part of the matters the Senate was constitutionally empowered to investigate.
He further asked the court to declare that the Senate’s moves to conduct an investigation on the matter was unconstitutional and amounted to unwarranted usurpation of the functions of the police and of the court of competent jurisdiction.
But counsel for the Senate, Kafayat Suleyman, had urged the court to dismiss the suit, insisting that the Senate had powers under Section 88 of the Constitution to investigate alleged misconduct by any public officer.
In a five-minute video that went viral online, Mr Danlandi was seen slapping and kicking Mr Sargwak, while police officers suspected to be attached to the CCT chairman were trying to restrain him from attacking the guard.
The security guard narrated to this newspaper that he was assaulted by Mr Umar and a policeman attached to him after he informed him (Umar) that his car was wrongly parked.
However, the CCT, in a statement last year, denied the assault allegation, insisting that it was Mr Umar that was assaulted by “some miscreants” who gathered at the scene of the incident.
Mr Umar’s conduct was widely condemned with many Nigerians calling for his prosecution.
The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) said in a statement that Mr Umar’s professional conduct had been called to question.
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