Only court can order state legislature takeover, judge declares
Faults N’Assembly’s request for re-inauguration of Edo House
Justice Kolawole Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt has declared that only a competent court that can direct the National Assembly to take over the functions of a state legislature.He also held that the National Assembly erred by directing Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue a fresh proclamation for the inauguration of the Edo State House of Assembly.
The judge made the submissions yesterday while delivering judgment in a suit filed by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Yekini Idiaye, and a member, Henry Okhuarobo, to challenge the federal legislators’ bid to take over their functions.
The respondents in the matter were the Clerk of the National Assembly; President of the Senate; Speaker of the House of Representatives; the Inspector General of Police; the Department of State Services and the Governor of Edo State.
The plaintiffs had sought the leave of court to bar the respondents and their privies from interfering or taking over the legislative functions of state legislature.The judge, in his ruling, explained that there was nothing before the court showing that the legislative chamber was unable to sit.
According to him, some elected members have been inaugurated and the House had been carrying out its legislative duties.He held: “The National Assembly lacks the power to take over the Edo State House of Assembly. It amounts to taking over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is not an appendage of the National Assembly.”
Justice Omotosho further declared that the National Assembly lacked the constitutional power to seal or direct anybody to seal the Edo State House of Assembly.
The 1999 Constitution (as amended), he emphasised, was a federal constitution and, as such, the “National Assembly cannot unilaterally decide that Edo State House of Assembly was in crisis and seal same up.”He stated: “It is only a court of law that has the power to make findings, particularly after listening to parties, to decide if the National Assembly can take over a House of Assembly. I hold that it is the court that has the power to define and hold that Edo State House of Assembly cannot function and the National Assembly can take over.”
On the directives for issuance of a fresh proclamation, the judge noted that as far as the law was concerned, the governor had given a proclamation.
The judge went on: “And to this end, the National Assembly has no known constitutional power to direct the governor to issue a fresh proclamation.
“The governor is the chief executive of the state and cannot be controlled by the National Assembly. The court will be extending the tenure of members of the Edo State House of Assembly if it holds that the governor should issue a fresh proclamation. Nigeria is a federal state and state governments are autonomous.”Our political actors must see it like that and treat them as such,” he asserted.