Appeal Court bars Edo PDP lawmakers
The hope of the four suspended peoples Democratic Party, PDP, lawmakers to upturn an order by a Benin City High Court restraining them from entering the House of Assembly complex was dashed Thursday 10 July following the dismissal of their application by the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, southern Nigeria.
The court which gave the order Thursday afternoon, said the application lacked merit particularly because the lawmakers refused to obey the interim order slammed on them by a lower court.
The four lawmakers, Patrick Osayimen, Jude Ise-Idehen, Friday Ogierakhi and Festus Ebea, were formerly members of the All progressives Congress (APC) but recently defected to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A Benin High Court presided over by Justice V.O. Eboreime had on 16 June, 2014, restrained the suspended quartet of Deputy Speaker of the House, Festus Ebea, Jude Ise-Idehen, Friday Ogieriakhi and Patrick Osayimwen and the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 5, Benin City and the Commissioner of Police, Edo state, from forcibly gaining entrance into the premises of the House of Assembly and legislative quarters.
They were also restrained from interfering with the sitting activities and other functions of the House of Assembly.
But the suspended lawmakers, however, filed stay of execution of the restraining order at the Court of Appeal.
They faulted their suspension and refused to obey the order, saying it was not duly given and also did not abide by an interim order restraining them from going to the legislative chambers and quarters.
Delivering the court’s ruling Thursday, Justice Morenike Ogunwumiju, who led two other Justices, said the lawmakers could not challenge a valid order that they did not obey, adding that they should have obeyed the order restraining them from going into the House of Assembly and allowed the motion on notice to be argued.
“The party in contempt cannot deliberately flout an order of the court and proceed to seek remedy in a higher court while still in contempt of the lower court. The appellants/applicants are acting with undue haste and jumping the gun. They did not give the judge who granted the order the opportunity of considering the motion on notice for the interlocutory injunction. It would have been an opportunity for both parties to argue all issues, deliberate on them and resolve. They should have allowed this to be done before rushing to this court and thereby making the proceedings of the trial judge inchoate.”
“The pursuit of a judicious hearing of the pending motion on notice of the interlocutory injunction in the lower court seems to be the proper course to follow so that the right of the application will be deliberated upon. The application is premature, devoid of merit and is hereby dismissed,” she said.
Counsel to the four lawmakers, Ferdinand Orbih, said they would study the ruling and then decide what to do.
Also responding, counsel to the All Progressive Congress (APC) lawmakers, Ken Mozia, said the ruling would enable them to continue committal proceedings against the suspended lawmakers for contempt of court.
“The police have a duty to comply with the law. The high court spoke but they did not obey and now the Court of Appeal has removed every vestige of justification that they may have. So now they have been told in clear terms that the parties concerned must comply with the order. Let us see what they will do,” he said.
Meanwhile, the State Council of Traditional Rulers has agreed to set up a committee to resolve the crisis rocking the State House of Assembly. The traditional rulers took the decision at the end of their meeting which was held at the palace of the Benin monarch.
Addressing journalists in the palace of the Oba of Benin shortly after the meeting, the Otaru of Auchi, Alhaji Haliru Momoh noted that the state was in turmoil, hence their decision to intervene.
“Edo state is in turmoil and we felt we must as traditional rulers come into the matter to resolve it totally and absolutely and we felt that the State Council of Traditional Rulers should issue a statement about the situation here. Omo N’ Oba has agreed that we dissolve into a committee and call our subjects and resolve the matter that is between them absolutely and totally.
“We have no inclination towards the parties. We are concerned about our people, the people at the grassroots are concerned about what is happening and the situation has to be brought to an amicable resolution. That is why we are here and Oba has said we should go ahead and constitute a committee that will now call everybody for dialogue. It is only through dialogue that we can resolve issues not through indiscipline, the display of power. We must come to dialogue,” the Otaru said.