• Court rejects senator’s plea to stop action
• You cannot deny us representation – Urhobo group
Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate has suspended Senator Ovie Omo-Agege for 90 legislative days, about six months, after a report of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions was adopted.
Senator Samuel Anyanwu chairs the committee.
The committee had earlier recommended, in its report, that Omo-Agege be suspended for one year.
The sentence was, however, reduced, following Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s intervention, including three All Progressives Congress (APC) senators: Ahmad Lawan (Senate Leader), Bala Ibn Na’Allah and Kabiru Marafa.
Omo-Agege was suspended over allegations during a press conference that Senate amended the Electoral Act (2010), to frustrate President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid.
He was also suspended for dragging Senate before a court.
Omo-Agege was in the chamber when his suspension was announced but was led out of the chamber by members of the Parliamentary Support Group for President Muhammadu Buhari, chaired by senator Abdullahi Adamu.
Apart from the suspension handed down to Omo-Agege, Senate also disbanded various groups in the Red Chamber, with special emphasis on Buhari’s support group. Omo-Agege is the second lawmaker in the Eight Senate to be suspended since it was inaugurated on the June 9, 2015.
Former senate leader, Ali Ndume, was suspended in March 2017, for six months. His suspension, has however been nullified by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Senate has appelaed the ruling.
Trouble started when Anyanwu presented his committee’s report and explained how Omo-Agege declined to make any comments when he appeared before the panel.
He also criticised the lawmaker for dragging the Senate before a Federal High Court and recommended that “Omo-Agege be punished, to serve as deterrent to others who abuse legislative processes. Omo-Agege is a member of the Ethics committee and he understands how the process works. When he appeared before us, he refused to respond to questions posed to him.
“He said since the case was already in court, he could no longer comment.
“We feel that this was a slight on the Senate and we needed to stop practices like this. Our committee is recommending that Omo-Agege be suspended for 181 days for making false allegations against the Senate…”
On his part, Saraki gave Omo-Agege a lifeline to escape the six months suspension.
He also said the existence of the controversial Pro-Buhari group in the chamber is a threat to the unity of the Senate.
“I am appealing that we reduce the number of days. But, we need to send a strong message to everyone that the Senate is an important institution that must be protected. Some of us will not be here tomorrow. If we destroy this institution, we will run into trouble.
“I am recommending from here that we make it 90 legislative days. Within this period, we expect the senator to withdraw the court case and members of the Buhari support group to disband it immediately. If they do this thing, we may come back here and review this decision,” said Saraki.
Also, Lawan had earlier pleaded with the chamber not to suspend Omo-Agege.
Adamu declined to comment on Omo-Agege’s suspension. He said a proper statement would be issued later. He said this in company with Omo-Agege, Ndume and others.
Regardless, the suspended lawmaker has described this suspension as subjudice.
He said since the case is already before a court of competent jurisdiction, he would not comment further on the issue.
“As already well-known by many, the issues acted upon today (yesterday) by the Senate are pending before a court of competent jurisdiction and, therefore, subjudice.
“It is the Senate’s view that the issues be withdrawn from court; for an amicable resolution to hold. Until a resolution is reached, it is better to respect the court processes by not commenting on them.”
Meanwhile, attempts by Omo-Agege to get relief in court failed, yesterday. His April 3 ex parte application, to stop his suspension, at a Federal High Court, in Abuja, was rejected by Justice Nnamdi Dimgba.
Elsewhere, a group of Urhobo political stakeholders have approached a Federal High Court, in Abuja, to stop Omo-Agege’s suspension. The group claimed in an interlocutory injunction filed on behalf of eight Urhobo stakeholders, yesterday, that Senate cannot deny them representation in the chamber.
The plaintiffs also joined Omo-Agege, that he should not appear before any Senate committee to defend himself on his claim that President Muhammadu Buhari was the target the Electoral Act amendment.
Others joined as defendants are Saraki, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Clerk of the Senate, the Department of State Services, the Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police and Omo-Agege, too.
The plaintiffs are Chief Alfred Okaka, Mr. Chris Agaga, Mr. Kingsley Okrikpo, Hon. Harrison Akpojarho, Manny Edu, Lyndon Ugbome, Moses Adegor and Godspower Emowhomuere.
In their affidavit of claim, averred to by M.G. Duku of and C.E. Umweni of M.G. Duku and Associates, Abuja, they said the Urhobo ethnic group, domiciled in Delta Central senatorial district, “is entitled, as a right, to be represented at all times by an elected senator, like other senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to protect the interests of the senatorial district and its constituents, in the day-to-day legislative functions of the Senate.”
They are also seeking a declaration “that the rights of the people of Delta Central senatorial district to unfettered representation in the legislative business of the Senate, by senator Ovie Omo-Agege, constitutionally guaranteed for a tenure of four years, cannot be abridged, diminuted, suspended, abrogated and or vitiated, except as stipulated by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).