The Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has struck out a suit filed by former Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, seeking an injunction to restrain the State House of Assembly from probing him over the purchase of 820 buses.
In her ruling on Thursday, Justice Yetunde Adesanya upheld the preliminary objections of the lawmakers and held that the court lacked the jurisdiction to stop them from going ahead with the probe.
Justice Adesanya also ruled that the ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the former governor was a fact-finding committee.
According to the judge, an investigation is not an indictment and “the claimant (Ambode) has not been indicted”.
“An invitation by an agency of government cannot in any way cause a breach of the threat of the fundamental rights of the claimant.
“I hereby find that the claimant’s action is an invitation to the court to cripple the legislative exercise of the statutory power of the Lagos State House of Assembly under Section 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution.
“That is not the function of the court, and no court of law should accede such invitation. The claimant’s suit is hereby struck out,” she held.
Meanwhile, the former governor has faulted the ruling of the court, stressing that it would challenge the decision.
His lawyers told Channels Television on the court premises that they would immediately test the court’s judgment in the Court of Appeal.
Breach Of Budgetary Approval
At the last sitting of the court on January 16, Ambode through his lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, told the court that the lawmakers needed to act in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said that the former governor’s rights under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution were being violated.
“His case is that the exercise of the lawmakers’ power is subject to the provision of the Constitution particularly the right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36.
“Secondly, the court will determine whether the exercise of the power of the House of Assembly is subject to the provisions of the Constitution under Section 128,” he said.
The lawyer added, “If the court answers the second question in the affirmative, it has the right to ask if those rights have been violated by the House of Assembly.
“We are also asking your lordship to determine the validity of a law or provision that will require the executive to come back to the House to seek disbursement of funds approved under the budget.
“The fifth relief is tied to the fourth relief: The lawmakers have been accusing the claimant of breach of budgetary approval. If there is no need for budgetary approval, they cannot accuse him of a breach.”
He, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the objection of the lawmakers with substantial costs.
A Premature Suit
Counsel to the lawmakers, Olukayode Enitan, on his part, challenged the competence of the court to hear the suit based on three grounds.
“The first ground is that it is ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority) – that is, the power of the court to interfere with any investigation of the Lagos State House of Assembly or any arm of government based on the principle of separation of powers,” said Enitan who is also SAN.
He added, “The second ground is that the suit is pre-emptive and premature and not actionable, and the third ground is that it discloses no reasonable cause of action. I urge the court to decline jurisdiction as this suit is premature.”
Enitan decried that rather than accept an invitation to attend a probe sought by the House of Assembly, Ambode “rushed” to the court.
He insisted that the former governor has not been indicted but only invited to come and explain certain issues to the lawmakers.
Ambode seeks an injunction restraining the lawmakers to compel him to appear before them pursuant to a resolution passed by House of Assembly, as well as any other resolutions passed in respect of the probe.
He also sought an injunction restraining the respondents from representing or continuing to represent to the public that the he procured 820 buses in breach of budgetary approval.
The former governor sought a court declaration that the provisions of Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 9 of the Appropriation Law of Lagos State, 2018, requiring the approval of the House of Assembly before certain expenditure of money should be incurred by the executive arm, was not in accordance with constitutional provisions.