Lawyer berates Senate for inviting AGF over Saraki, Ekweremadu trial

Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.
Chambers of the Nigerian Senate used to illustrate the story.

An Abuja-based lawyer, Kayode Ajulo, on Wednesday criticized the Senate for inviting for questioning, the Attorney General for the Federation, Abubakar Malami, over the trial of its leaders.

In a statement, Mr. Ajulo said the upper legislative chamber lacked the power to summon Mr. Malami on a matter that is before a court of competent jurisdiction.

The Senate, through its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, had summoned the AGF to appear before it on Thursday last week.

The action followed the case of forgery brought by the federal government against the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his Deputy, Ike Ekweremadu, and two former top management staff of the National Assembly.  

But Mr. Ajulo said the invitation of Mr. Malami was unbecoming and a flagrant abuse of the doctrines of separation of powers entrenched in the nation’s laws. 

“For the records, the action is also prejudicial. With a very strong caveat, members of Nigerian parliament should come out of their infantile viewpoint and know when to cross the line,” the lawyer cautioned.

“I wonder why Senator David Umaru-led committee would have allowed itself to be used to cause infraction on matters that are purely beyond the Senate and presently being prosecuted in the court of competent jurisdiction.

“Although the power of Senate to conduct investigation is broad and inherent in the legislative process. But broad and inherent as this power of inquiry, it is with limitation as the Senate cannot constitutes itself into the police or a trial court,” he said.

Mr. Ajulo argued that any investigation conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to punish those investigated is indefensible and cannot stand.

He cited the case between the Guardian Newspapers and the Attorney General of the Federation, 1999, 9 NWLR, (Pt. 618) 187, pages 249-250.

In the case, Mr. Ajulo said the Supreme Court held that the legislature’s power to investigate is not absolute because it has some legal impediments.

In another case between Tony Momoh and the Senate, 1982, NCLR, 105, he said the Court of Appeal clearly held that Section 82 of the 1979 Constitution does not empower the legislature usurp the investigating functions of the executive nor the adjudicative functions of the judiciary.

“Any invitations by the legislature to any person outside the purpose defined by Section 82(2) of the 1999 constitution is invalid,” he cited the Appeal Court’s ruling.

“Also in Obayuwana versus Ali and others, 1983, 12 SC147 at 191-192 and El-Rufai versus House of Representatives, 2003, 2 WRN I, SC, it was held that the power of investigation by the legislature cannot be invoked to apply to issues that are outside the purview of the legislature in the exercise of the power to make law.”

Drawing from the court rulings, Mr. Ajulo insisted that the Senate has abused its oversight function. 

According to him, some lawmakers not only see the function as a way of enriching themselves and aiding personal aims but also use it to intimidate their perceived enemies.

The lawyer said the forgery case instituted against Messrs. Saraki and Ekwermadu and two others is in order.

He, therefore, advised the nation’s lawmakers to respect the rule of law and not interfere on a matter that is before the court.

“I, therefore, urge the AGF to discountenance the invitation and threat of Senator David Umaru-led Committee on the matter under reference and continue to pursue his duties as provided by the laws of the land.

“He should also note that no person or group of persons can intimidate his office under the guise of oversight.”

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