The Senate on Monday evening stated that it will not prevent the lawmaker representing Delta Central senatorial district, Sen. Ovie Omo-Agege, from attending plenary on Tuesday, in compliance with a Federal High Court order.
Following the 90-legislative-day suspension slammed on the Delta Central senator, the upper legislative chamber had initially stated it would not respect the order, since it has filed an appeal in a higher court.
But the Senator had vowed to take his seat during proceedings of the upper legislative chamber on Tuesday, boasting that fresh moves by the Bukola Saraki-led Senate to sustain the 90 days suspension clamped on him would fail.
Referring to the recent judgment by an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba which nullified his suspension, he insisted that the declaratory order took effect from last Thursday when the decision was taken.
“As far as I am concerned, based on my knowledge of the law, that purported suspension by Saraki has been vacated with immediate effect. They have the right to appeal and they have already filed it. But they are not entitled to the equitable relief of stay of the court’s judgment.
“He who must come to equity must go with clean hands. Their hands are not clean and that was why we got the declaratory order. There is no reason why I should not show up tomorrow. Most likely than not I will be in the Senate tomorrow,” Omo-Agege told reporters at the national secretariat of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
Shortly after, the Senate gave its new position in a statement by the chairman of its chairman of the Committee on Media and Publicity, Senator Sabi Aliyu Abdullahi.
“The Senate leadership has been briefed by our lawyers on last Thursday judgement of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on whether the Senate has the legal authority to suspend a member for certain misconduct or not.
“We have equally filed an appeal against the judgement of the court and a motion for stay of execution of the judgement at the Court of Appeal.
“As an institution that obeys the law and court orders, the Senate has decided that it will comply with the judgement of the Federal High Court and do nothing to stop Senator Ovie Omo-Agege from resuming in his office and at plenary from tomorrow May 15, 2018, pending the determination of the application for stay of execution.
“The Senate has been advised that since the motion for stay of execution of the Thursday (May 10, 2018) judgement shall be heard and possibly determine on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, we shall therefore respect the subsisting High Court judgement and await the appellate court decision on the pending motion,” Abdullahi said.
Last week Thursday, a Federal High Court in Abuja nullified the suspension of Omo-Agege for 90 days by his colleagues and declared it illegal.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba ordered his reinstatement with immediate effect.
The All Progressives Congress, APC, senator in Delta Central, was suspended by the senate because he openly criticised the amendment of election sequence carried out by the senate.
He accused the senators of making provision for election sequence in the amended Electoral Act in disfavor of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The 2019 general election sequence released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, placed the presidential election first, but the senators reversed it.
Buhari refused to assent to the bill and the court had also ruled that the senate had no power to alter the sequence of election as fixed by INEC.
The court also presided over by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba declared Omo-Agege’s suspension unconstitutional.
Omo-Agege had challenged his suspension in court.
Dimgba said that the reason given by the Senate and the Senate President for suspending Omo-Agege was unconstitutional.
“While the legislator has powers to take disciplinary measures against its members, the reason given for the punishment is an unconstitutional reason.
“I hereby nullify the suspension of the plaintiff (Omo-Agege) which was based on the recommendations of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions with immediate effect.”
Dimgba also ordered the Senate to pay Omo-Agege any outstanding salaries or allowances which were due to him during the period of the suspension.
The judge stated that the decision recommended by the committee to punish Omo-Agege for going to court was wrong and contravened Sections 4 and 6 of the constitution adding that he had a right to go to court.
“Access to court is one key indicator of a democracy, the exercise of his rights cannot be a basis for punishment.”
The judge further stated that the court took judicial notice of the fact that while the suit was pending in court, the senate went ahead to suspend the senator for 90 legislative days.
“In sanctioning a legislator, the legislature must act within the law. While this suit was pending, and to the knowledge of the Senate and the Senate President, they went ahead and imposed a sanction on him.”
The judge also said that the 90 legislative days suspension was against Order 67, Rule 4 of the Senate Standing Rules which provided for a lawmaker to be suspended for only 14 legislative days.
He maintained that suspending the senator for more than 14 days was denying his constituents the required representation.
He, however, held that the legislature had the powers to sanction any lawmaker who set out to make comments or act in a way that could bring disrepute to the institution.
But that the legislature went out of track and arrived at a wrong and false end by punishing the senator for exercising his rights.
According to him, Omo-Agege’s right was not breeched when the senate referred him to its committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions as he erroneously believed.
The Delta Central senator filed the suit to challenge his suspension from the senate.
He asked the court to among other reliefs, grant an order restraining the defendants, their servants, agents, privies or officers from interfering with his rights and privileges as a senator and to make any order that it may be deem fit.