Court rebukes House of Reps, orders it to pay suspended member year’s pay

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has voided and nullified the 188 legislative days suspension placed on former chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmuminu Jibrin, and ordered the House to pay all outstanding salaries and allowances that accrued to him during the suspension.

Delivering judgment in a suit filed by Jibrin challenging his suspension, Justice John Tsoho, declared the suspension as null and void, and of no effect whatsoever.

Defendants in the suit are the House of Representatives, the Speaker as well as the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Justice Tsoho held that the defendants by suspending the plaintiff, violated his rights as enshrined in Section 39 of the 1999 constitution as amended.

He was suspended by the House of Representatives for 180 legislative days in 2016 for alleging that principal officers of the House padded the budget. More so, the court stated that Order 10 Rule 5 of the Legislative Powers and Privileges Act provides that a lawmaker cannot be suspended for more than 14 days.

In addition, the court observed that even offences seen as more serious against the Speaker only attract a suspension of not more than 30 legislative days.

The court held that the defendants were partial and biased when the principal officers who raised allegation against the plaintiff were part of the Ethics and Privileges Committee that sat over his case.

The court held that it was conscientiously wrong for the defendants to be judge in their own case. “Failure of the defendants to recuse themselves from actively participating in the case of the plaintiff, made them a judge over their own case,” the court noted.

According to the judge, the House erred when it went ahead to suspend the plaintiff not minding the pendency of an action against the defendants.

Tsoho noted that in spite of a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/595/16 filed by the plaintiff, seeking to stop the Ethics and Privileges Committee from sitting,  the defendants went ahead to set up the panel, and consequently suspended Jibrin.

In view of this, the court held that, “act of defiance by the defendants not minding the pendency of the suit was fatal and constituted bias…”.

Earlier, the court dismissed the preliminary objection filed by the defendants against the suit. Contrary to the submissions of the defendants in urging the court to dismiss the suit, Justice Tsoho opined that the action was not an abuse of court process.

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