- Court Nullifies Ndume’s Suspension
The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday nullified the suspension of former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, from the Senate, describing it as illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional.
It consequently set aside the suspension letter, dated March 30, this year, and issued to the Borno South senatorial district’s representative by the senate.
The court also ordered the president of the senate and the senate, who were the first and the second respondents in the suit filed by Ndume, to pay him all outstanding salaries and allowances.
Ndume had approached the court following his suspension from the senate for a total of 90 legislative days, for what it described as “not conducting due diligence before filing a petition against the Senate President Bukola Saraki and the lawmaker representing Kogi West senatorial district, Dino Melaye.”
Ndume was also indicted “for bringing Melaye, his colleagues and the institution of the senate to unbearable disrepute,” as contained in the report submitted by the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Senator Samuel Anyanwu.
Delivering judgment in the suit, which was marked FHC/ABJ/CS/551/2017, Justice Babatunde Quadri, held that the suit has merit and as such, succeeded in part.
He said: “The suspension of the plaintiff is hereby declared illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional. The purported suspension contained in the letter of March 30, 2017, is hereby set aside.
“The first and second defendants are hereby directed to pay the plaintiff his outstanding salaries and allowances forthwith.”
The court, however, declined to grant relief Number Five, which urged it to award N500million to Ndume as general, exemplary and aggravated damages over his suspension.
The Judge held: “Relief No. five is hereby refused because I hope this will facilitate reconciliation in the senate between the plaintiff and other members of the senate and bring peace to our nascent democracy. and all senators will hold sacrosanct, their Standing Order, rule of law and by extension, the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
Besides the president of the senate, the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chairman, Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, Anyanwu, who recommended Ndume’s suspension was also a defendant in the suit.
In a 3 -paragraph affidavit in support of his originating motion, and which was deposed to by Ndume, the lawmaker averred that on March 21, pursuant to Orders 14 and 15 of the extant Senate Standing Orders (as amended), he drew the attention of the senate to media insinuations already published online by an online and medium and one print medium.
“That the insinuations or allegations mentioned online and in the print media were that Melaye did not complete his first degree programme at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria; and that the invitation of the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) by the senate was informed by the seizure of a bullet-proof SUV vehicle belonging to the senate president and attempt to clear same with fictitious documents, and I urged the senate to look into these insinuations or allegations being made by these outfits.
“That pursuant to my rising on Orders 14 and 15, based on the aforesaid insinuations and allegations by the media on the said March 21, I laid the said publications before the senate.
“Consequently, the senate presided over by Deputy Senate President, in line with Order 41 (3) of the Senate Standing Orders 2015 amended, referred the matter to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions (herein “called ” the Committee) headed by Anyanwu (the third Defendant) for detailed investigation.
“In the course of the investigation by the Committee, the Committee invited me amongst others and I specifically informed the Committee that I did not write any petition against the 1st defendant or anybody for that matter, but raised the issue as a matter of privilege, seeing that the integrity of the senate could be damaged by such publications, in order that senate may clear any alleged smear on its integrity.
“That on March 28, 2017, the Committee, headed by the 3rd defendant, submitted its report to the senate, wherein the Committee cleared the 1st defendant and Melaye and recommended that the senate should suspend me for 181 days (1 year), with effect from March 28, ‘for bringing Melaye, his colleague, and institutions of the senate to unbearable dispute.”
Meanwhile, the senate has kicked against the judgment, vowing to file an appeal on Monday, November 13.
In a statement issued by its counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), shortly after the judgment, the senate said it had earlier challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter and consequently disagreed with the judgment.
According to Ozekhome: The senate, which has the strong conviction that the decision of the trial court will be overturned by the Court of Appeal, has accordingly instructed the law firm to file an appeal against the judgment immediately.
“The notice of appeal is ready and would be filed unfailingly by Monday morning.
“An application for a stay of execution of the orders of the court will also be filed same time.”
Meanwhile, Ndume, declared yesterday that he has forgiven its leadership for imposing six months suspension on him, just as a Federal High Court in Abuja nullified his suspension.
Briefing journalists on the matter, Ndume lamented that his constituency was denied representation in the National Assembly during the period.
The Senate leader, who was full of praises to God for his victory in court, expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Northeast Development Commission Bill into law, which he claimed was his pet project from the beginning.
Ndume was placed on six months suspension on March 29, this year for raising issues of alleged illegal vehicle purchase against Senate President Bukola Saraki and failing to provide proof.
At the press conference yesterday, Ndume said: “I am just from court and I thank God that the court has declared my suspension unconstitutional, illegal and null and void, and that was what I approached the court for, a declaratory judgment, and I got that judgment today.
“I am not taking anything personal against anybody. If anybody takes anything personal against me, I leave him with God, because I don’t have the advantage, it is just that they are taking advantage of their positions and the confidence we have given in them.
“I have said that I have been betrayed, because all of you know the role I played in the struggle of making that senate to be better than what we had during the 7th one. Unfortunately, it became worse because last time on the 7th senate, the few of us were there, the concept we had that made it to be disobeying the party order was that the senate should belong to the senators.
“That was why we brought in even the other parties, so that was why we had the like minds.”
He said even though the court had voided his suspension, he was not too keen about reclaiming the allowances he was denied, pointing out that he simply went to court to place it on record that the senate leadership had no powers to suspend him the way it did.
“My entitlements are mine, as the court said, but my entitlement has been denied from April to date, but I am alive. So, I am not going to go back because of my entitlement; I am ready to move forward and I don’t think that is a big deal anyway.
“My right is my right and my right has been trampled on and in fact, my constituents have been denied representation, which is a constitutional matter.”
“My going to court is not primarily because of the financial aspect of it. As I said earlier, senators died, they cannot be paid, senators have been removed, they cannot be paid and many of us are out there.
“So, the emphasis is on the declaration and the interpretation of the action taken that was unjust on me,” he added.