Melaye, Others Remain Suspended


Dino Melaye after the fight that led to his suspension.

For a third consecutive time, the suspended members of the House of Representatives led by Hon. Dino Melaye failed in their bid to get a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja to grant an interlocutory injunction to enable them return to the House pending the determination of their substantive case challenging the power of the Speaker and membership of the House to suspend them.

Dino Melaye after the fight that led to his suspension.

They, however, recorded a measure of success in getting the court to hear their interlocutory application for the injunctive orders after series of legal obstacles thrown in their way by the Speaker and the other defendants in the suit who had severally stalled the hearing of that application.

The little success, however, did not amount to much when viewed against the orders they are seeking for the court to make.

Ruling on the application was fixed for 27 August, thus they will have to wait for another one month to know whether or not they will be joining their colleagues in the House to partake in the sharing of the mind blowing sums which the House of Representatives usually disburse to members as quarterly allocations.

It is to the credit of Mr. Femi Falana’s adroitness that the suspended members’ application for injunctive orders was heard today as the Speaker, through his lawyers, fought tooth and nail to stall the hearing of the application.

Mr. Falana told the court that the defendants were deliberately frustrating the matter so as to prevent the suspended members from participating in the affairs of the House.

He contended that his clients were elected into the House of Representatives for a constitutionally guaranteed four-year term and that in accordance with the provision of section 68 of the Constitution of Nigeria,  they cannot be suspended by the defendants.

Falana called on the court to discountenance the submissions of the defendants on the issue of the jurisdiction of the court which they are challenging.

While noting that the issue of jurisdiction ought to be taken first before further steps should be taken in a suit, the legal luminary observed that this case is a special one where the court needs to protect the subject matter of the suit.

He rejected the position of the defendants who claim that injunctive orders should not be granted in favour of the plaintiffs since their suspension is already a completed act and maintained that the suspension is a continuous issue as far as the current legislative session has not ended.

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Alhaji Yusuf Ali, who led the defendants in opposing the application for injunctive orders, contended that the application has similar sub status with the substantive suit and that once the court grants the reliefs being sought by the suspended members, that the case will summarily be determined as the plaintiffs will never show up again for the case to be determined.

According to Mr. Yusuf, “the plaintiffs are asking for an order of preventive injunction preventing the defendants from restraining them from performing their legislative functions. If this is granted, only God knows when the substantive suit will be determined.”

He further argued that since the jurisdiction of the court had been challenged by the defendants, that the court cannot make any binding order on them until the issue of jurisdiction is settled one way or the other.

Mr. Demola Bakre who represented the Clerk of the House of Representatives, in his own submission, noted that the court had complied with its order at the last adjourned date to hear the plaintiffs’ application today but observed that having heard them, the court cannot go any further.

He also pointed out that section 61 of the Constitution allows the House of Representatives to carry on with its duties not minding any vacancy in its membership and argued that the subject matter of the suit cannot be destroyed.

The presiding judge, Justice Adamu Bello, offered to accommodate them within the period when the court will be on vacation for the ruling on the application and adjourned the matter till 27 August 2010.

In a related development, one of the suspended members, Mr. Olugbenga Onigbogi, who also dragged the Speaker to court over his suspension, had told the court that he is exploring avenues for an out of court settlement in resolving his issues with the leadership of the House of Representatives.

Hon. Onigbogi’s lawyer, Mr. A. A. Badejo, a senior advocate of Nigeria, told the court that counsel to the parties are meeting with a view to resolving the issue before the next adjourned date. The case was subsequetly adjourned till 3 August 2010.

By Nnamdi Felix/Abuja

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