Court dismisses fundamental rights suit by Saraki, Melaye, Murray-Bruce

Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki
Former Senate President, Bukola Saraki

An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has dismissed an application filed by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, challenging the decision of the Nigerian Police to invite him and two other senators, following a protest last October.

Messrs Saraki, Dino Melaye and Ben Murray-Bruce had asked the court to declare their invitation by the police as illegal and order the police to pay them N500 million.

They approached the court after their protest march to the Police Headquarters on October 5 was dispersed by the Police.

Police authorities had explained after dispersing the protesters with tear gas that they employed “minimum force” to prevent an alleged attempt to break into the police headquarters.

The three senators had organised the protest on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party, to demand a declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission that a fellow senator, Ademola Adeleke, be declared the winner of the Osun governorship election.

After the protests were dispersed, the police invited their leaders, including Mr Saraki.

But Messrs Saraki, Melaye and Murray-Bruce challenged their invitation and accused the police of violating their fundamental rights.

In a ruling on Thursday, the court presided over by a judge, Okon Abang, dismissed their application for lacking in merit.

The court ruled that their application fell short of the required procedure for the filing of such a fundamental rights suit.

According to the judge, the applicants ought to have filed separate applications, in line with the provisions of order 2, rule (4) of the Fundamental Rights procedure rules.

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The court said the decision of the applicants to file a single application rendered their application invalid.
The court also said the applicants negated the provisions of the said rule when they allowed their lawyer to depose to an affidavit on their behalf, despite the fact that they were not detained nor was their movement restrained.

“According to the provisions of order 2, rule 4 of the Fundamental Rights procedure rules, any person who alleges that any of his fundamental rights has been infringed, or likely to be infringed may apply to the court.

“The affidavit shall be deposed by the applicant. But where the applicant is in detention or his movement restrained, someone who has personal knowledge of the facts can depose to the affidavit.”
The judge said the lawyer who filed on behalf of the applicants failed to state whether they were in detention, hospitalised or restrained from movement, as required by the provision.

“This is where the court ought to have determined the case. The objection of the police ought to have succeeded, ” Mr Abang ruled.

The judge also said the submissions of the applicants that their rights were infringed could not be upheld since they were only invited by the police. Mr Abang said the police have a constitutional duty to invite persons accused of disrupting the law and order or involved in a criminal allegation, as was the case with the senators.

“Where crime is alleged, the police have a duty to invite. The court cannot restrain the police, so long as they are acting within the ambits of the law.
“Therefore it is my view that the police invitation on October 6 and 8 remain valid,” the judge ruled.

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