Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami PHOTO: Daily Trust

Parliament Watch

Nigeria Justice Minister rejects Kogi Assembly takeover by National Assembly

By Taiwo-Hassan Adebayo

April 11, 2016

The Attorney ‎General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has advised the Inspector General of Police to disregard a National Assembly resolution to seal the Kogi State House of Assembly, saying the legislative body erred in its resolution.

On March 17, the Senate concurred with the earlier resolution of the House of Representatives to take over the Kogi State House of Assembly and ask the police to seal the assembly complex.

The complex has since been under lock, following the directive.

The National Assembly had intervened in Kogi legislative crisis after the emergence of two persons parading themselves as Speakers.

Momoh Lawal was declared impeached by five of 25-member Assembly on February 16, leading to the emergence of Umar Umar.

Some lawmakers insist Mr. Lawal remains Speaker, while others support Mr. Umar.

While the police had since complied with directive of the National Assembly, the Inspector General of Police sought legal opinion from the minister of Justice via a letter dated March 18.

In his reply obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, Mr. Malami said the National Assembly erred.

He explained that Kogi legislative crisis was a mere misunderstanding between legislators with no implication for the wider security of the state as envisaged by the constitution which can lead to “take over” of a state house of assembly.

He further stated that “careful reading of the factual situation” envisaged under Section 11(4), which can give rise to a “take-over” decision by the National Assembly in respect of the affairs of a State House of Assembly revealed that it must be by “reason of the situation prevailing in the State”.

“The Constitution, in my opinion, presumes that the general security situation in the State should have deteriorated to the extent that the House of Assembly finds it difficult or impossible to operate or exercise its normal legislative activities.

“Section 11(4) is therefore, not meant to address mere issues of disagreement between legislators within the State House of Assembly, since it is recognized that such disagreements or disputes are normal incidences within the democratic governance space.

“The 1999 Constitution therefore never presumed that every disagreement within a State Legislature would be visited with the sanction of National Assembly legislative oversight.

“It is instructive to note that Section 11(4) is part of the general Section 11 of the Constitution which is titled ‘Public Order and Public Security.’ It must therefore be read within such a context and not merely in relation to the situation within the House of Assembly.

“In view of the foregoing, the next question would be: Was there a security situation in Kogi State at the time in question which made it impossible for the State House of Assembly to exercise its legislative functions?

“From information available to me, it would appear that the answer to the question is ‘No’ as there was no such alarm raised by the relevant security agencies or by the Federal Government itself.

“Without prejudice to the above issues, it is further necessary to interrogate the legal status of a Resolution of a House of the National Assembly. It is a notorious fact that Parliamentary Resolutions are merely persuasive and not binding in law adding that its lack legal efficacy and cannot become the basis to compel Executive action such as the present directive to the Nigeria Police Force to seal off the House of Assembly.

“A close reading of Section 11(4) further suggests that if the National Assembly is expected to ‘make laws’ for the peace, order and good government of a State in crisis, it cannot make such laws on the basis of a Resolution.

“In view of the foregoing, I am of the considered opinion that sufficient legal basis has not been established for the consequent directive to the Inspector-General of Police by the House of Representatives to ‘Seal the Kogi State House of Assembly Complex until the matter is resolved’,” the minister wrote.