The House of Representatives on Tuesday summoned the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, over his role in the festering Kogi State House of Assembly crisis.
At its resumed session in Abuja after the Easter break, the House raised doubts over Malami’s understanding of law and particularly the 1999 Constitution.
He is to appear before a 22-member ad hoc committee of the House, which the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, named on Tuesday.
Malami will appear before the panel, which is chaired by the Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, along with the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase.
The House had on March 9, invoked Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution by taking over the affairs of the Kogi State House of Assembly in the weeks, after five of the 25-member legislature ‘impeached’ the Speaker, Mr. Momoh Jimoh-Lawal.
The Senate also endorsed the resolution of the House to fulfil the constitutional requirement that the ‘National Assembly’ could assume the duties of a state legislature whenever the latter was unable to perform its functions of lawmaking.
The National Assembly had directed Arase to seal off the assembly and deploy policemen from Abuja to Lokoja to take charge of the security of the premises.
But on Tuesday, the lawmakers expressed disbelief that Malami overruled the National Assembly by challenging the powers of the legislature under the law to seal off the assembly.
Drawing the attention of the House to the development, a Peoples Democratic Party member from Delta State, Mr. Nicholas Osai, faulted a letter Malami wrote Arase, advising him to ignore the resolution of the National Assembly.
The AGF was also said to have described the action of the National Assembly as “illegal and unwarranted.”
The letter, Osai said, was “baffling” to members.
Malami reportedly told the IGP to ignore the legislature because the matter was already before the law courts.
He argued, “Mr. Speaker, this is an affront on the powers of the National Assembly as a separate arm of government.
“We concluded on the Kogi Assembly crisis in line with the provisions of Section 11 ( 4) of the constitution.
“But, the AGF recently wrote the IGP to question the legality of our constitutional duty. The action of the AGF is a direct attack on the constitution and the National Assembly.
“The legislature must rise in this case to protect its rights.”
On Arase, the House said his offence was opting to seek the advice of Malami on a resolution of the National Assembly derived from its powers in the constitution.
Contributing to the debate, Gbajabiamila, who is an All Progressives Congress lawmaker from Lagos State, said he could not believe that Malami, a lawyer, wrote such a letter.
Gbajabiamila added, “I believe that he is wrong. Section 11(4) says once a state assembly is unable to function, the National Assembly takes over (its functions).
“Section 11(4) gives the National Assembly express powers and this is not ambiguous in any way. It doesn’t require much energy to interpret the section.
“This section has to be read side-by-side sections 96 and 100.
“The AGF is completely wrong by asking the IGP to open the gates of the assembly for five out of 20 members to sit and conduct legislative business.”
The Minority Leader of the House and the PDP member from Delta State, Mr. Leo Ogor, also supported the motion.
“The AGF is promoting anarchy in Kogi State. He must come to face the committee of the House.
“As the AGF, he should know that the matter in Kogi State is a serious security issue that must not be allowed to escalate,” Ogor added.
Dogara, a lawyer, also told members that he had yet to come to terms with the content of Malami’s letter.
He said this had forced him to doubt whether the AGF indeed authored the letter.
“This is a serious matter and we have to first establish whether the AGF actually authored that letter.
“I sincerely doubt if the number one law officer of the country authored the letter,” Dogara stated.
Malami got the heaviest attack from an APC member from Kano State, Mr. Aliyu Madaki, who went down the memory lane to remind his colleagues that it was the AGF who caused the festering political crisis in Kogi State.
Madaki recalled that Malami’s “hasty” comments on the outcome of the first round of the Kogi State governorship poll in November 2015 was the cause of the raging crisis in the state.
“The AGF even passed his comments before the Independent National Electoral Commission, the electoral umpire, so that INEC could take a position on the election.
“The AGF should go and read his books very well,” Madaki added.
The House Deputy Whip, Mr. Pally Iriase, who in March headed an investigative panel on the Kogi Assembly crisis, dismissed Malami’s reference to the case being in court.
Iriase recalled that till date, no processes had been formally served on the National Assembly, nor a restraining order.
He argued that the fact that a party to a case going to court alone without securing any restraining orders could not stop the National Assembly from carrying out its own constitutional duties as a separate arm of government.
The Gbajabiamila-led 22-member panel was given two weeks to complete the assignment.
Meanwhile, 10 members of the Kogi State House of Assembly were suspended on Tuesday.
They were suspended on the floor of the House at Tuesday’s plenary following the adoption of a report of the ad-hoc committee set up on March 10 to look into the crisis rocking the house since November last year.
(The Punch Newspaper)