The Senate Tuesday suspended indefinitely its investigation into the alleged assault on Clement Sargwak by Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Danladi Umar. But lawyer to Sargwak, Timizing Venyir Ramnap, condemned the move, saying the upper chamber is reneging on its statutory duty to defend the rights of citizens.
The Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, headed by Senator Ayo Akinyelure, which was investigating the alleged assault at its fifth sitting opted to suspend further probe on account of litigations slammed against it, the senate, and Attorney General of the Federation by the respondent, Danladi Umar.
However, while opposing the suspension of investigation, the lawyer to the petitioner, in a brief submissions before the committee’s decision, said the purported originating summons from the Federal High Court, Abuja, forwarded to the committee by counsel to the respondent, were mere court processes and not declarative orders.
Venyir stated, “Courts have procedures of doing things. The present document before this committee, as read out by the chairman, is not an order from any court but mere court process served on the senate. Were it to be a valid order from a court of competent jurisdiction, senate may back out but since it is not, the senate, through this committee, still has its constitutional powers on the case and can forge ahead with the investigation.
“We hereby wish to submit that the Senate do look at its position as contained in law by rejecting this temptation.”
Responding, the committee’s chairman declared, “We have submitted all the originating summons to the leadership of the Senate, Clerk to the National Assembly, Clerk of the Senate and the legal department of the National Assembly. All the issues raised by the respondent, who has turned himself to a plaintiff now, will be challenged in the court because investigation on the alleged assault started here before the CCT chairman ran to court.
“Be rest assured that the matter will not die like that but we have to stop investigation for now, pending the outcome of consultations we are seeking from relevant authorities and, in particular, the counter offensive being made against the CCT Chairman in the court of law.
“This is a clear case of circumventing the constitutional powers of the Senate after submitting himself to us for investigation and begged for time to study the allegations made against him. He appeared at the first sitting, sought for a week to study allegations on assault levelled against him. We gave him three weeks for that. Thereafter, at the second, third sessions, he sent representatives that he couldn’t come due to ill health, only for him to inform us through his lawyers at the fourth sitting two weeks ago that he was already in court.
“Here today, neither him nor any of his representatives is here, which will make us to stop the entire process for now, because we can’t write a report on the investigation by hearing from only one side. We hereby step this investigation aside sine die.”
Umar, in the suit with file no FHC/ABJ/ CS/671/2021, is challenging the Senate’s constitutional power to conduct investigation and the purpose for which it is exercisable. Specifically, the CCT chairman is asking the court to interpret the constitutional powers granted the Senate or House Committees on Ethics and Public Petitions, whether it covers public assaults, which as averred by his attorneys, are part of the constitutional functions of the police and the courts of law.
Copies of the originating summons and suit signed by Sunday Edward (ESQ) and other attorneys from Abuka and Partners on behalf of Umar, listed him as the plaintiff while the Senate, President of the Senate, Senate’s Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, and the Attorney General of the Federation were listed as defendants.
Umar in the originating summons seeks court interpretation of the powers of the four defendants to investigate the case of assault in question.
The summons read in part, “Whether the purported case of assault which allegedly took place at Banex Plaza on 29th March, 2021, forms part of the matters the first defendant is constitutionally empowered to investigate.
“Whether the first defendant and its committee, that is, the third defendant, are competent to investigate and/or invite the plaintiff in relation to the investigation of the allegation of assault levelled against him.
“Whether the powers of the first defendant to conduct investigation are not by and/or subject to provisions of Sections 88 and 89 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, and are not exercisable for the purposes of making law and exposing corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution of administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by the first defendant.
“Whether the first defendant’s move to conduct investigative hearing on the petition before it is not unconstitutional and does not amount to an unwarranted usurpation of the functions of the Police and of the Courts of competent jurisdiction.”
Umar went further, through his attorneys, to inform the Senate to discontinue the investigative hearing, as the alleged assaultee (Clement Sargwak), has been sued.
The letter read, “We write to inform you that the case between our client and Clement Sargwak is now before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (suit no FCT /HC/ CV/ 1544/2021 Mr. Danladi Umar vs Clement Sargwak) and the issue as to whether or not Clement Sargwak had discontinued and/or withdrawn his petition before your Honourable Committee is equally sub-judice.
“We trust that Senate, as the upper chamber of the National Assembly, will respect due process and refrain from delving into a matter that is before a court of competent jurisdiction.”