Melaye, Others Must Be Allowed Back In The House

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About six months after members of the Progressive Group in the House of  Representatives were suspended by their colleagues for accusing the leadership of  the House of fraud, six members of the group whose suspension were lifted by  a  Federal High Court in Abuja last Thursday came to the National Assembly on Wednesday  to reclaim their seats but were prevented from doing so by security officials  attached to the complex.

The leader of the group, Dino Melaye (PDP, Kogi) and 10 others were suspended  indefinitely by their colleagues on 22 June for for allegedly breaching House Rules  in what many have described as “a show of shame.”

In the process of evicting the offending members from the House, they were beaten  and their clothes torn. A female member of the group was literally bundled out of  the chambers of the House. All these happened in the full glare of  visiting  children and journalists  who beamed the scene to the rest of the world.

It was indeed sad that the so-called hallowed chambers of the House was desecrated  by hoodlums masquerading as representatives of the people.

It is also disturbing that the show of shame was repeated again on Wednesday when  Melaye and his colleagues were manhandled by policemen attached to the Assembly  complex and pushed out of the complex. The treatment meted out on Melaye and co., we  were made to understand, was ordered by the Dimeji Bankole-led leadership which  immediately after the Abuja court ruling  last Thursday filed a motion to arrest the  execution of the court judgment.

Before the latest incident, Melaye had told newsmen on Monday that he and his  colleagues were going to resume in their offices on Wednesday.

Rather than respect the ruling of the court and allow Melaye and his colleagues to  resume, the House leadership sent its goons to chase them away.

We are at a loss to understand the rationale behind the recent assault on Melaye and  his colleagues after a court of competent juridiction had quashed their suspension  and ordered their return to the House.

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The Abuja High Court was clear in its ruling when it described their suspension as  illegal and unconstitutional, as it violates their fundamental human rights to  freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 36 of the country’s constitution. It is  the opinion of the court that the suspended legislators were not given a fair  hearing.  The court also held that the House acted ultra vires and breached its own  standing order  by slamming indefinite suspension on the lawmakers when in law the  House could only suspend erring members for 14 legislative days only. Although the  court conceded that the House has power to discpline any erring member, it ruled  that such power must be exercised within the ambit of the law.

If the House leadership was dissatisfied with the judgment, it had done what should  be done by asking for a stay of execution. But then it should have allowed Melaye  and his colleagues to resume in the House.

Refusing them entry into the House is tantamount to denying them the opportunity to  reap the fruits of their victory in court. If there is no hidden agenda, nobody  stands to gain anything in their continued absence from the House.

It is our stand that the House leadership should spare the country of further  embarrassment and allow Melaye and his colleagues back in the House. Whatever it is  that the House leadership plans to do about the judgment, it should respect it first  by allowing Melaye and his colleagues to resume and contribute their quota to the  development of the country.

He who seeks equity must come with a clean hand, lawyers will argue; we expect the  House to first obey the court judgment and then seek redress.

Just like Justice Adamu Bello of the Federal High Court stated in his ruling while  lifting the suspension on Melaye and others, “ the House must caution itself from  arbitrary actions that can make a mockery of our law.”

We cannot agree less.

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