Home » House, Legislature, Raw Politics » Farouk Lawan claims immunity in Otedola’s N250bn suit

Farouk Lawan claims immunity in Otedola’s N250bn suit

Embattled member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, on Thursday told an Abuja High Court that he was immune from civil prosecution for any action he took on the floor of the House while serving as the chairman of the ad-hoc committee that probed the management of fuel subsidy in the country.

He said this in a preliminary objection to N250bn suit filed against him by a businessman, Femi Otedola. He asked the court to dismiss the suit on the basis that the action over which he was dragged to court was taking in the course of his duty as chairman of the committee.

Lawan was  removed as the chairman of the committee amid accusation by Otedola that he (Lawan) obtained  $620,000 bribe from him  in order to strike out the name of his company, Zenon Oil, from the list of indicted firms.

The Lawan-led  committee had indicted some firms and individuals of shortchanging the subsidy regime to the tune of N1.7trn. It consequently recommended their prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Otedola had alleged intimidation by the House in the wake of his accusation against Lawan and consequently sued the lawmaker;  the  Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal; the Clerk of the National Assembly; and the National Assembly. He is asking the court to make the defendants pay him N250bn  as damages for the loss of goodwill  as a result of their actions in the course of the probe.

At the resumption of hearing in the case on Thursday,Lawan and Tambuwal argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to try them.

In a preliminary objection filed by his counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, Lawan asked the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that “Section 3 of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act Cap L 12 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” gives him absolute immunity from civil proceedings in respect of what he said on the floor of the House .

Lawan said the suit concerned actions he took on the floor of the House in his capacity as a member and that the subject matter of the suit has to do with the revenue of the country.

Arguing in support of the objection, Ogunwumiju maintained that Section 251 (1) of the 1999 Constitution had denied the court the powers to hear and determine the suit.

Rather, the defence counsel noted that it was the Federal High Court that had the jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

Lawan’s lawyer also argued that Otedola’s suit was premature.

“The law says that when an Ad-Hoc Committee report is set and a report is submitted, no cause of action arises from the report until a White Paper is out or until the House adopted the resolution of that report,” he said.

According to him,  the Lawan-led committee only submitted its report to the House and no cause of action can arise at that stage.

Lawan also restated his claim that Otedola wanted to bribe him to compromise the work of the  committee, and that he collected the money in order to expose the businessman.

On his part, Tambuwal argued that he could not be a party   to  the suit as all the issues raised in the plaintiff’s statement of claim did not, in anyway, relate to the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, or the Speaker himself.

The Speaker’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), said, “Tambuwal is not a necessary party in this suit and as such, his presence is not required.”

But Otedola’s counsel asked the court to dismiss the defendants’ objections and go ahead to hear and determine the suit.

Otedola’s lawyer, Babajide Koku(SAN), noted that the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act confers immunity on parliamentarians for words spoken on the floor of the House. But he stressed that the matter before the court was different as it involves phone calls from Lawan to Otedola demanding bribe.

Koku said, “Farouk demanded $3m and you forced us to pay $620,000. It is intimidation. Whether they collected the money in part or in full cannot absolve them to say we cannot institute an action.”

He added that Tambuwal was a party in the alleged intimidation, making him a necessary party in the suit.

The presiding judge, Justice Peter Kekemeke, adjourned the matter to January 30, 2013, to rule on the defendants’ preliminary objections.

-Punch

Short URL: http://newnigerianpolitics.com/?p=26612

Posted by on Nov 22 2012. Filed under House, Legislature, Raw Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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