Port Harcourt — The Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt, has declared that the National Assembly does not have the power to take over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly or any other state House of Assembly.
The court, while delivering judgment yesterday in Port Harcourt in a suit filed by Deputy Speaker of Edo State House of Assembly, Hon. Yekini Idiaye and a member of the House, Hon. Henry Okhuarobo, also held that the National Assembly lacks the power to direct Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, to issue fresh proclamation to the House of Assembly, as such a directive would amount to extending the tenure of the state lawmakers.
Idiaye and Okhuarobo, on behalf of themselves, had approached the Federal High Court to challenge the moves by the National Assembly to take over the functions of the House of Assembly.
Joined in the suit were the Clerk of the National Assembly, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Inspector-General of Police, Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Edo State governor.
In his judgment, Justice Kolawole Omotosho declared that it is only the court that could direct the National Assembly to take over or seal the Edo State House of Assembly.
Omotosho said: “There is nothing before the court showing that the Edo State House of Assembly is unable to sit. Some elected members have been inaugurated. The House has been carrying out its legislative duties.
“The National Assembly lacks the power to take over the Edo State House of Assembly. It amounts to taking over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is not an appendage of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly lacks the power to seal off or direct anybody to seal off the Edo State House of Assembly. The Nigerian Constitution is a federal constitution and the National Assembly cannot unilaterally decide that Edo State House of Assembly is in crisis and seal off the same.
“It is only a court of law that has the power to make findings, particularly after listening to parties, to decide that the National Assembly can take over a state House of Assembly.
“I hold that it is the court that has the power to define and hold that Edo State House of Assembly cannot function and the National Assembly can take over.
“As far as the law is concerned, the governor of Edo State has given a proclamation. The National Assembly has no power to direct the governor to issue a fresh proclamation. The governor is the chief executive of the state and cannot be controlled by the National Assembly.
“The court will be extending the tenure of members of the Edo State House of Assembly if it holds that the governor should issue fresh proclamation. Nigeria is a federal state and state governments are autonomous. Our political actors must see it like that and treat them as such.”
Addressing journalists shortly after the court session, counsel to the Obaseki, Santos Owootori, described the judgment as sound and victory for democracy.
Counsel to the claimants, Kingsley Idahosa, said they were glad that the judgment went in their favour.