20180424

Lawmaker’s Suspension: What The Law Says

Suspension has become a weapon in the hands the leadership of states and federal legislatures to whip ‘erring’ members into line. But, activist-lawyer Femi Falana says it’s a violation of the constitutional rights of constituents to suspend their representatives. Citing empirical precedents, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also says it is wrong to trample on any lawmaker’s rights to freedom of speech and association.

If the Court of Appeal ruling on the suspension of a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly is anything to go by, the leadership of states and national assemblies would think twice before wielding the suspension rod to browbeat lawmakers.

The appellate court affirmed the High Court judgment on the reinstatement of Rifkatu Danna (Bogoro State Constituency, Bauchi), who was placed on indefinite suspension for speaking out against the leadership of the Assembly.

But, The Nation reports, the suspension virus continued to spread with Delta Central Senator Ovie Omo-Agege as its latest victim.

The harmer fell Omo-Agege penultimate week. He became the second senator to be shut out of the legislative chamber by the leadership of the Eighth Senate.

Like the Borno South senator, Ali Ndume, who had a six-month suspension slammed on him in March, last year, Omo-Agege was suspended for 90 legislative days for his membership of the Parliamentary Support Group (PSG) for President Muhammadu Buhari and opposition to the polls’ time-table re-ordering bill.

Ndume was suspended for allegedly embarrassing Senate President Bukola Saraki and Kogi West Senator Dino Melaye.

In the House of Representatives, Abdulmumini Jibrin (Bebeji/Kiru Federal Constituency, Kano), was suspended for exposing padding of the 2017 budget by the House leadership.

Jibrin, who headed the House Committee on Appropriation, was suspended in 2017 for 180 legislative days.

His suspension was lifted on March 13, following an apology letter, he purportedly wrote to Speaker Dogara.

The former Chairman, House of Assembly Committee on Information, Gboyega Abibisogan (Ikole State Constituency) was suspended in October 2016 for 180 days.

His offence was alleged disloyalty to Governor Ayo Fayose and association with “opposition elements”.

In Bauchi, a female member of the State House of Assembly, Rifkatu Danna (Bogoro State Constituency), was indefinitely suspended for her opposition to the relocation of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Headquarters to Bununu District without the benefit of a dissenting voice.

Her suspension, which was quashed at the State High Court, was affirmed by the Court of Appeal.

But, activist-lawyer Femi Falana said the leaderships of the law-making chambers have no power to punish any legislator with suspension. He laced his position with instances.

It’s illegal to suspend legislators 
In the celebrated case of The Speaker, Bauchi House of Assembly v Honourable Rifkatu Danna (2017) 49 WRN 52, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the Bauchi State High Court, which had set aside the indefinite suspension of the respondent as a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly. In view of the penchant of the leadership of the current national assembly to suspend members who express dissenting opinions from parliamentary business it has become necessary to draw the attention of legislators and other Nigerians to the current state of the law.