Nigerians Panic as Court Refuses To Restrain Reps From Passing Infectious Diseases Bill

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Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court sit­ting in Abuja, on Wednesday, refused an application seek­ing to restrain the House of Representatives from the ongoing debate aimed at amending the Quaran­tine Act CAP Q2 LFN 2004, through a controversial Bill introduced by the speaker, Femi Gbajiabi­amila.

The fundamental rights enforcement suit was sued/filed by Okoro Nkem, on behalf of the ap­plicant, Senator Dino Me­laye in pursuant of sections 34 (1) 35, 36 (1), 37, 41 (1) and 46 (1) of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Ni­geria, as amended, Articles 4, 6,7,10,11,12 and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratifi­cation and Enforcement ) Act, CAP A9 LFN 2004, etc.

Respondents in the suit are the Clerk of NASS, the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Inspector General of Police.

Justice Ojuk­wu in the ruling declined to grant the order because the speaker of the House of Representa­tives, the third defendant in the suit, was yet to be served with the court documents.

Consequently, the court adjourned the case till June 1 for further hearing.

On May 13, 2020, Justice Ojukwu had refused an ex parte application by the plaintiff seeking an order for parties to maintain status quo in the matter.

Rather than granting the restraining order, the court directed all the respondents in the suit to appear before it on May 30 to defend the bill from being stopped by an in­terim court order as request­ed by the plaintiff.

At a resumed sitting, the plaintiff ’s lawyer, Nkem Okoro, said the respondents had failed to file any process­es to show cause why such restraining order should not be issued by the court.

He, therefore, urged the court to order parties to maintain the status quo to protect the subject matter and prevent a situation of foisting a “fait accompli” on the court.

However, Justice Ojukwu declined to grant the plain­tiff ’s request on the grounds that the May 13, 2020 sum­mons for the defendants to appear in court on Tuesday to show cause why they should not be restrained con­cerning the NCDC Bill, was predicated on the service of all the respondents with the required court documents.

“Since the condition precedent has not been met, I would rather hold that the matter proceeds to hearing,” the judge ruled.

She then ordered that the speaker be served through his lawyer, Ajulo.

The Federal High Court Abuja, on Wednesday, re­strained the House of Rep­resentatives from inviting Ikenga Ugochinyere, spokes­person, Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), over allegation of $10 mil­lion bribery scandal.

The House of Represen­tatives ad-hoc committee in­vestigating the $10 million bribery allegation against the speaker, Femi Gbajabi­amila, had summoned Ugo­chinyere to appear before it unfailingly on Thursday.

Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who delivered the ruling in a suit filed by Ugochinyere, reminded the defendants of the position of the law once a matter was before the court.

According to Justice Tai­wo, once a matter is in court, parties must not do any act to foist upon the court a situ­ation of fait accompli.

The speaker, House of Representative, Femi Gba­jabiamila, clerk of the Na­tional Assembly and the Inspector-General of Police, are defendants in the case.

 The House had set up an ad-hoc committee led by Henry Nwawuba to probe the bribery allegation of­fered to the lawmakers by Bill Gates to accelerate the quick passage of the Con­trol of Infectious Disease Bill, 2020.

The committee had earlier given the CUPP spokesman seven days to appear before it.

Besides restraining the lawmakers from going ahead with the probe, the judge also ordered accelerated hearing of the case.

In a motion ex-parte dated and filed on May 7, the court held that “the defendants are enjoined not to do anything on the subject matter of this suit and the reason for the ex parte application until the court considers the affidavit to show cause why the court should not grant prayers 2 and 4.”

Recall that The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) has slammed the speaker of the House of Represen­tatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, over the investigation of its spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugo­chinyere, in respect of the bribe allegation to pass the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Bill.

The CUPP, which said Gbajabiamila was leading the House of Representa­tives down the path of law­lessness, added that the in­vestigation was an attempt to harass and intimidate the opposition since it had put its act together and had been putting the government on its toes.

The CUPP, which vowed not to attend the investiga­tive hearing, condemned the ongoing investigation of Ugochinyere by a Com­mittee of the House set up by the speaker.

Addressing newsmen on Wednesday, in Abuja, Ken­neth Udeze, the chairman of CUPP Contact and Mobilisa­tion and national chairman of Action Alliance, said the opposition had held the gov­ernment accountable and that Speaker Gbajabiamila was clearly not comfortable with that.

Udeze said: “This attempt to suppress the opposition and muscle it out of the Ni­gerian media space will fail.

“The event at the farce hearing on Monday, May 18, 2020 was a clear attempt to intimidate the opposition and the media and ensure they only publish pro-pub­lic news.

“The military attempt­ed this and failed. Speaker Gbajabiamila, who obvious­ly would have boasted to his masters that he would suc­ceed to take out the opposi­tion from the media space, will fail in this agenda and fall like a pack of cards.

“We have reviewed the statements by our spokes­person, including all his press statements and press conferences, and we de­clare that they were all in line with international best practices expected by the op­position and we pass a vote of confidence in our nation­al spokesperson, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere.

“He has held our flag flying high and he will keep doing that no matter the amount of coordinated attacks from the likes of Speaker Femi Gbaja­biamila.

“The exposition of the very shady, ugly, and shame­ful past of Speaker Gbaja­biamila in the U.S. by our spokesperson is obviously one of the reasons why the speaker has resorted to this misguided action of using the institution of the House to pursue his personal, nar­row, selfish, and undemocrat­ic course.”

He added: “If allegations were made against the speak­er directly, on what moral and statutory grounds does he stand to constitute a com­mittee to investigate him?

“Was the speaker not ashamed of himself when the committee announced to a shocked audience at the hearing that they had already taken his evidence in private without any person, includ­ing his adversary, being no­tified of the sitting or even availed the opportunity of being present?

“Was Speaker Gbajabi­amila not worried by the fact that against all statuto­ry and judicial authorities, including the very rules of the House over which he presides, that the chairman of the committee insisted on sitting even when the subject matter of the sitting was al­ready being determined by a court of competent jurisdic­tion?

“Or does the speaker who prides himself as a lawyer not understand the doctrine of lis pendens?

“Was Speaker Gbajabi­amila not shocked that the committee conducted a guid­ed hearing on May 18, mov­ing like a taxi that had been told by the passenger where he was headed and they were moving with precision to in­dict Ikenga and decapitate the opposition?

“Has he also never read the provisions of Order 9 Rule 5 of the House rules? What else has he not read that he should have read?”

The CUPP accused the speaker of violating the rule of natural justice by wanting to be a judge in his own case, even as it called on him to step aside along with his deputy who is also a co-accuser of the CUPP for a neutral person to preside over the issue.

The opposition chal­lenged the speaker to set up a committee and he would see how the truth of his activi­ties in the sponsorship of the Infectious Diseases Bill 2020 would be shown to the world

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