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Appeal Court Orders Suspended Edo Lawmakers to Stay Away from Assembly Complex

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The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, Edo State has ordered the suspended Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers in the state House of Assembly to obey the restraining order made against them by a Benin High Court.

A Benin High Court presided over by Justice V.O. Eboreime had on June 16 restrained the suspended Deputy Speaker of the assembly, Festus Ebea, Jude Ise-Idehen, Friday Ogieriakhi and Patrick Osayimwen from forcibly gaining entrance into the premises and legislative quarters.

They were also restrained from interfering with the sitting activities and other functions of the assembly.
The court also restrained the Assistant Inspector-General (AIG)  of Police, Zone 5, Benin City and the state Commissioner of Police.

The suspended lawmakers approached the Court of Appeal in Benin City where they filed a stay of execution application against the order.

Ruling on the application, Justice Morounkeji. Ogunwunmiju, who read the ruling on behalf of his colleagues, declared that “the said suspended members could not seek any relief from the Court of Appeal while they were in contempt or disobedience of the order of the high court.”

Taking a swipe at the four lawmakers, Justice Ogunwunmiju ruled that a party, which was in contempt of a vaild order of court, cannot be allowed to seek or obtain any relief from the court while the contempt persists.
The court further held that a party which believes that an order against it was made without jurisdiction was still bound to obey same until it was set aside.

The court was also of the opinion that the application for stay of execution was premature as the four suspended legislators should have allowed the High Court to hear and determine the motion on notice rather than rushing to the Appeal Court.

She therefore ordered the suspended lawmakers to obey the lower court order before approaching it for a stay of execution.

Ogunwumiju said the appellants should have obeyed the lower court’s decision before seeking an order for stay of execution, noting that failure to obey the decision of the lower court amounted to disobedience and dismissed the appellants’ applications.

“The appellants have a duty to obey the order of the court restraining them from going into the premises and you cannot be in disobedience of the court order. The decision belongs to the court and not to the parties.
Reacting to the ruling, Ferdinard Orbih (SAN) counsel to the appellants said they would study the ruling before taking any decision either to appeal against it or not.

In his reaction, Ken Mozia (SAN), counsel to the respondents, said a committal proceedings of the contempt of court had been instituted against the appellants but was however put on hold as a result of stay of execution appeal before the Court of Appeal.

He said with the revalidation of the lower court’s decision, they had no choice not to comply with the order, noting that the choice was also left for the authorities of the Nigeria police to take on the matter.

According to him, “We have commenced committal proceedings against them which we have to keep in abeyance because of this application. The order restraining them is now re-emphasised and then there is no further bar to the continuation of the committal proceeding against them for as long as they remain in contempt by refusing to abide by the decision of the court restraining them from going to the assembly.

“It is up to the Commissioner of Police and the AIG authorities for them to decide how they will want to be remembered. They have a duty to comply with the law. The High Court has spoken, they did not comply, now the Court of Appeal has removed every vestige of justification that they may have. Now they have been told in clear terms that the party restrained must comply with the order. Let us see what they will do.”

The four lawmakers had approached a Federal High Court, sitting in Benin City and obtained an interim order to restrain the Speaker of the assembly from declaring their seats vacant, in line with section 109 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

They also prayed that both the Speaker and the assembly should be restrained from suspending them, as members of the assembly, on disciplinary grounds.

However, while the Federal High Court ordered that the Speaker, Hon. Uyi Igbe, should not declare their seats vacant pending the determination of the suit, the court however refused the prayer for an injunction restraining the applicants from being suspended from the assembly as Justice A.M Liman ruled that: “The disciplinary power of the assembly is not subject to the judicial review of the court, accordingly the application to restrain the second respondent from suspending the applicants from the assembly is hereby refused.”

Subsequently, on June 9, the four lawmakers were suspended from plenary by the assembly for “gross misconduct”, in accordance with the rules of the assembly.
Also, the Speaker and the assembly approached the state High Court to restrain the four suspended legislators from forcing themselves into the chambers of the assembly pending the determination of the case.

The state High Court, after hearing the arguments of both sides, granted an interim order restraining the four suspended legislators from forcing themselves into the hallowed chambers. The court gave an order of Interlocutory Injunction:  “restraining the defendants by themselves or agents, assigns, privies, or other persons acting for, through or by them from forcibly gaining entrance into the premises and legislative quarters  of the 3rd claimant or howsoever interfering with the sitting activities and other functions of the 3rd claimant pending the determination of the suit.

However, in flagrant disobedience of the court order, the four lawmakers have continued to sit in the chambers of the assembly.

Meanwhile, traditional rulers in the state have indicated interest to wade into the crisis in a bid to bring peace to the now crisis- ridden assembly.

The traditional rulers across the three senatorial districts in the state met at the palace of the Oba of Benin.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting at the Oba of Benin Palace, Otaru of Auchi, Aliru Momoh, Ikelebe III, said a committee that would dialogue with the warring lawmakers would be constituted by weekend.

He added that the Oba of Benin had personally intervened on the matter but however seek the input of all the traditional rulers since they had failed to put an end to their crisis.
Otaru, who said the traditional rulers had no inclination towards political parties, noted that the decision to wade into the crisis was for the interest of the people of the state especially those at the grassroots level who gave the lawmakers their mandate.

Article Credit: Thisdaylive

Updated 4 Years ago

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Tags:     Edo State     Court of Appeal     PDP     Justice V.O. Eboreime     Festus Ebea     Jude Ise-Idehen     Friday Ogieriakhi and Patrick Osayimwen