Again, Court reserves judgment against Saraki, Ekweremadu

Chukwumerije Aja, Abuja

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria has again, reserved judgment in an action challenging the legality of the Senate Standing Rule used in the election that produced Dr. Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu as Senate President and Deputy respectively.

The judge said that the verdict would be handed down within the time limit stipulated by law.

The action of the judge followed an objection by five senators that instituted the case, to a petition written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu asking for transfer of the case from Justice Ademola even when judgment had been reserved.

The five senators are: Abu Ibrahim, Kabir Garba Marafa, Robert Ajayi Boroffice, Bareehu Olugbenga Ashafa and Suleiman Othman Hunkuyu.

In their objection to Ekweremadu’s petition, they dismissed the allegation of bias made against Justice Ademola as being unwarranted and said it was a calculated attempt to blackmail the judge.

The objection was filed by Mr. Mamman Mike Osuman, who on Wednesday, told Justice Ademola Adeniyi not to be dettered by the content of Ekweremadu’s petition on the grounds that there was no basis for the petition in the first instance.

The five senators claimed that the petition of Ekweremadu was unreasonable and in bad taste and faith because he (Ekweremadu) had never for once appeared in court personally to witness proceedings in the matter and therefore could not make a case of bias.

The plaintiffs also told the judge that the Deputy Senate President was being represented by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Patrick Ikweto, who could not associate himself with such an allegation of bias.

Other defendants in the case also told the judge that the petition was strange to them because they were not copied.

Ekweremadu’s petition

It would be recalled that Ekweremadu had last week petitioned Justice Ademola before the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta and copied the Chief Justice of Nigeria ,asking that the case be taken away from the judge for fear of being biased against the defendants, on the strength of the “sudden appointment” of the wife of the judge as the Head of Service in Lagos State.

Ekweremadu claimed in the petition that “Lagos forces” being aggrieved by the election of National Assembly principal officers, gave the Head of Service job to Mrs. Ademola through Lagos State Government, so as to do the bidding of those opposing the emergence of principal officers of the parliament.

Justice Ademola after listening to lawyers present in court, said that he would deliver judgment in the matter except the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court gave a contrary directive.

Saraki’s argument

On December 15, last year when final addresses were adopted, Saraki had told the court that he did not violate any law or breach any rule in the election that produced him as Senate President in June, 2015, contrary to the claims against him by some aggrieved Senators.

Saraki had told the court that he was returned un-opposed in the election by the majority of the Senators present on the Election Day in the upper chamber following his due nomination and endorsement for the office.

The Senate President who argued in the court through his counsel Mr. Kayode Eleja,  asked Justice Adeniyi Ademola to dismiss the court action against him and five others for being abuse of court process, frivolous and unwarranted.

He said that the five senators who instituted the court action did not disclose what they lost by his election because none of them aspired or contested the senate presidency with him or any other officers and as such, have no locus standi to come to court.

In their suit filed by their lawyer Chief Mamman Mike Osuman SAN, they asked the federal high court to set aside the election for being a nullity, having allegedly violated the 2011 standing rule inherited in 2015.

But Saraki told the court that the process of the election in the senate was a domestic affair of the senators because no part of the 1999 constitution or any other law was violated to warrant any litigation and that the court has no business to inquire into the internal affairs of the senate.

“There are 109 senators in the senate and only five are challenging the election of the officers. The point is that, the interest of the five senators, if any at all, cannot over-ride or be larger than the interest of 104 other senators”.

If they are actually in the majority, as they claimed, they should go back to the floor of the senate and test their popularity rather than rushing to court on issues that are purely internal affairs of the distinguished senators,” the counsel submitted.

“Up-till now, they have not pointed out any infraction to the 1999 constitution or any other law in the conduct of the election, they have not told this court what they lost by the election of the Senate President and they have not told this court that they aspired to the office but was denied. They are in this court to waste the precious time of this court and I urge the court to show them the way out”.

Saraki’s counsel faulted the vote of proceedings brought to the court to file the action, adding that being public documents, the five senators ought to have brought originals or certified true copies instead of photocopies that are not inadmissible in law.

Counsel to Ekweremadu, Chief Patrick Ikweto, SAN, and Chief Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN, who stood for the National Assembly, adopted the position of Saraki.