Hon. Dimeji Bankole, Speaker, House of Representatives.

Speaker of the House of Representative, Hon. Dimeji Bankole and the Clerk of the House of Representatives may be on their way to prison following their refusal to pay the salaries and allowances of the reinstated lawmakers as they have been summoned before a Federal High Court to show cause why they should not be committed to prison.

Dimeji Bankole

It would be recalled that five members of the House led by Dino Melaye and independence Ogunewe had been reinstated by the Court presided over by Justice Adamu Bello on December 2nd.

Other members of the House that had gone to court to challenge their suspension and were reinstated are Solomon Ahwinahwi, Bitrus Kaze, Abba Anas Adamu, and Doris Uboh.

The court had ordered that they be readmitted in the House and paid their salaries and allowances forthwith on the grounds that the House erred in suspending them indefinitely.

In the form 49 which is committal proceedings filed at the court late last Tuesday, they accused the House of disobeying the orders of the court by their refusal to pay them their outstanding salaries and allowances accrued since June 22nd to date.

The House leadership was also accused of illegally breaking into their offices after they were illegally suspended from the House.

In the affidavit deposed to by Melaye he averred that since the re-admission to the House that the Speaker and Clerk of the House have refused to pay them their salaries and allowances and restrained them from performing their legislative duties.

“That following the refusal of the 1st and 3rd Defendants/Contemnors to comply with the judgement of this Honourable court form 48 was issued by this court on December 8th 2010 and same served on them.

*That unless the application for committal to prison is granted and the 1st and 3rd defendants/Contemnors are committed to prison the judgment of this court will not be complied with by them.

Specifically Justice Bello had while giving judgment in two separate suits filed by the aggrieved lawmakers held that the House erred as it failed to give the members fair hearing before placing them on the suspension.

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The   judge also held that the House acted ultra vires and breached its own standing order by slamming indefinite suspension on the members when in law, the House can only suspend erring members for 14 legislative days only.

Justice Bello however agreed that the House has power to discipline any erring members but held that such powers must be exercised within the ambit of the law.

The court  held that when it became evident that the lawmakers allegedly published malicious publication against  the House and the leadership, the right decision the court said, would  have been to refer the action to the Committee  on Privileges and Petition which would have subjected the members to interrogation and thus give them opportunity to defend themselves.

Besides, the court said that since the offence  of the lawmakers was offensive, the House ought to have  referred the  alleged offence to Police for investigation and the office of the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice for prosecution in court.

In the glaring breach of the rights of the  lawmakers  to fair  hearing, the court said that the suspension cannot stand since nothing can be built  on nothing.

He said that “the House must caution itself from arbitrary actions that can make mockery of our law” adding that the action of the House on June 22 was fundamentally defective.

The Judge admonished the lawmakers and the House to use the judgment to facilitate total reconciliation.

By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja

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