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Sunday, 13 May 2018

Lawyers, CSOs clash over Senate powers to summon IG

Lawyers, CSOs clash over Senate powers to summon IG

Nigeria's 8th Senate

Some senior lawyers on Saturday disagreed on the constitutional powers of the Senate to summon the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, over the spate of killings in the country and the alleged inhuman treatment of Senator Dino Melaye.

Senior lawyers, including Messrs Emeka Ngige (SAN); Mike Ozekhome (SAN); Second Vice-President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Monday Ubani; and Tolu Babaleye, told our correspondents that Idris erred by shunning the Senate summons.

However, their colleagues- Messrs Jiti Ogunye and Dr. Kayode Ajulo-insisted that the National Assembly was abusing its power on summons and needed to be cautioned.

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The learned gentlemen also disagreed on the justifications offered by some lawyers for the failure of Idris to honour three invitations from the Senate within a period of one month.

For instance, human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), had argued that the power of the Senate to invite public officers was limited, adding that the IGP could only be summoned if the invitation was about an investigation with a view to exposing corruption, enacting laws or amending an existing law.

However, Ngige disagreed with Falana, insisting that the IG would only know if the Senate would overstep its boundaries if he honoured the invitation.

Ngige said, “How would the IG know the Senate would overstep the limits of its powers? Is it not when he honours the invitations that he would know that? If, for instance, he gets there and they ask him about Senator Dino Melaye, he can simply tell them that the matter is subjudice since it is in court”.

Also toeing the same line, Ubani, in a separate interview, argued that it was wrong for anybody to advise the IG not to honour the Senate’s invitation.

The NBA chief said, “It is wrong for anybody or lawyer to advise the IG to dishonour the invitations of the Senate. We cannot, because of some personalities in the Senate, destroy the institution of the Senate. These days, I have seen the interpretations of the law by some lawyers not based on the law but based on sentiments.”

But Ogunye, in disagreeing with them on Saturday, said Falana had not argued that the Senate could not summon the IG but that the National Assembly could only do so for the purposes stated in the constitution.

He said, “The Senate is abusing its power to summon. The Senate has to be cautioned. The IG has his problems, of course. We know the police force for what it is. They don’t even obey court orders made in favour of ordinary citizens.”

In his submissions, Ozekhome said, “Femi Falana is wrong. The Senate under section 4 of the 1999 Constitution is empowered to make laws for peace, order and good government in Nigeria.

“It is the IG being the Chief Security Officer under sections 214 and 215 of the Constitution that oversees ‘peace and order’ throughout Nigeria. Section 88(1) of the same constitution also provides that the Senate shall have the power to investigate any matter with respect to which it has powers to make laws.

“It is thus clear that when the IG enforces the provisions of section 4 of the Police Act to detect, prevent, investigate and prosecute crimes, he is acting within the ambit of any matter with respect to which it (NASS) has powers to make laws”.

But Ajulo disagreed with Ozekhome and others, insisting that Falana was correct based on his position on the matter.

He said, “Falana has said it all. What he said is the position of the law. The Senate is not a summon house. It is the job of the judiciary arm of government to summon people.

“They are free to summon people in the process of working on a bill. It is only in the parliamentary system of government that they can summon a public office to call him to order, not through summoning.”

However, Babaleye disagreed with Ajulo and others who justified the decision of the IG to ignore the Senate summons.

He said, “The position of Femi Falana is very strange to law. Section 88 of the constitution stipulates the type of questions that the National Assembly can ask from any Nigerian.

“It specifically states that the NASS has the power to question any Nigerian on issues where they can make laws. This means that they have the right to invite the IGP.

“The IG recognised the fact that he had been invited, that is why he sent his subordinates. Sections 3 and 4 of the legislative privilege act also state specifically that NASS has oversight functions.”

Also, civil society organisations, namely the Campaign for Democracy, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, have lashed out at Idris, and the Senate over their rift, insisting that their action was an insult to democracy.

The CD President, Usman Abdul, said, “The IG has flouted part of the rules of engagement and it is very unfortunate that in a democracy, we could see such high-handedness and impunity.

“The Senate is made up of the people’s representatives who were duly elected. The IG is an appointee and can be fired. He should honour the call of the Senate as his refusal to do so is encouraging impunity in this democracy.”

The CDHR President, Malachy Ugwummadu, said, “Looking at the perennial refusal of the IG to honour the Senate invitation, I think that gradually, Nigeria is already weighed down by the impact of a dysfunctional government and inter-agency relation. Things are deteriorating by the day.”

The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership said the Senate had ridiculed itself through “several frivolous invitations” in the past, which made its invitation to the IG suspicious and ineffective.

The CACOL Director, Debo Adeniran, said, “Many of the invitations that the Senate had been turning out were an expression of arrogance of power. They were indulging in an unnecessary waste of time.”

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