N250b suit: I have legislative immunity, Lawan tells court

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The
suspended Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime, Mallam
Farouk Lawan, yesterday asked the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory
to strike out a N250billion suit against him and three others by a businessman,
Mr. Femi Otedola, because he has legislative immunity.
Otedola
and his company, Zenon Petroleum and Gas Limited had sued the Speaker of the
House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal and the suspended Chairman of the
House Committee on Fuel Subsidy Regime for N250billion.

Others,
who are joined in the suit filed in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory
, are the Clerk of the National Assembly and the National Assembly.

The
two plaintiffs also vowed to expose how a $3million bribe was demanded from
them by the first defendant, Farouk Lawan.
The
plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants jointly and severally are as follows:
The
sum of N100billion against the defendants as general damages for the acts of
intimidation, loss of goodwill and patronage occasioned by the acts of the
defendants.
The
sum of N150billion against the defendants as exemplary damages for their
oppressive and arbitrary action.
But
Lawan, through his counsel, Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju from Afe Babalola Chambers,
sought for an order striking out and/or dismissing this suit.
He
raised three grounds for his objection, including the facts that: *the 1st
Defendant enjoys legislative immunity; *this Honourable Court lacks the
jurisdiction to entertain this suit having regard to the subject matter and
parties hereof; and that *the action is premature as no cause of action has
arisen to warrant same.
In
a written submission, the counsel to Lawan (who is the first defendant) said
the lawmaker has legislative immunity.
The
submission said: “This is a notice of preliminary objection challenging the
competence of this suit as well as the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court to
entertain same.
“The
grounds of the objection are as shown on the face of the notice of objection.
We respectfully crave your Lordship’s indulgence to argue same seriatim.
“We
respectfully submit that the 1st Defendant (Lawan) enjoys legislative immunity
and cannot, therefore, be sued, having regard to the averments in the Statement
of Claim filed in this suit. May we humbly refer your Lordship to Section 3 of
the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, Cap. L12, Laws of the
Federation, 2004 which provides: “ Immunity from proceedings. No civil or
criminal proceedings may be instituted against any member of a Legislative
House –in respect of words spoken before that House or a Committee thereof; or
in respect of words written in a report to that House or to any Committee
thereof or in any petition, bill, resolution, motion or question brought or
introduced by him therein.”
“Without
doubt, the totality of the complaint of the Plaintiffs against the 1st
Defendant centres on words spoken by him on the floor of the House and/or words
written in a report to the House of Representative or its Committee. We refer
your Lordship to paragraphs 3, 8, 15, 20, 23, 24, 25 & 26 of the Statement
of Claim.
“The
net effect of these paragraphs and indeed the totality of the Statement of
Claim is that the Plaintiff’s complaint borders on the words spoken by the 1st
Defendant and/or written by him in a report to the House of Representatives or
its ad-hoc committee and cannot therefore be entertained by this Honourable
Court. See the unreported decision of this Honourable Court presided over by
Hon. Justice S. E. Aladetoyinbo in Suit No: FCT/HC/CV/164/2008 between Hon.
Henry Seriake Dickson v. R. Hon. Werinippe Seibarugu Dividson & Ors, delivered
on the 30th of June, 2009 where His Lordship held on pages 10 – 11 thus: “The
relevant statute to this proceeding is Section 3 of the Legislative House
(Powers and Privileges) Act 1990.It reads as follows:
“No
Civil or Criminal proceedings may be instituted against any member of a
Legislative House. In respect of words spoken before that House or a Committee
thereof or in respect of words written in a report to that House or to any
Committee thereof or in any petition, bill, resolution, motion, question brought
or introduced by him therein.”
The
defendant insisted that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Lawan
said the subsidy regime on petroleum products relates to the Federal
Government’s revenue.
“This
case, therefore, clearly falls within Section 251(1)(a) of the 1999
Constitution which confers exclusive jurisdiction on the Federal High Court.
See N.D.I.C. v. Okem Enterprises Ltd (2004) 10 NWLR (Pt. 880) 107 at 182 para.
H,” he said.
Lawan
said the application before the court by Otedola and Zenon did not disclose any
cause of action because no White Paper had been issued by the Federal
Government on the said report of the Ad Hoc Committee.
Source:
The Nation

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