Knocks for Malami over Kogi Assembly

 Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN)

Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN)

As the heat of the crisis that bedeviled the Kogi State House of Assembly continued to take its toll on the delivery of dividends of democracy to the people of the State, the intervention of the Chief law officer of the country has added a new twist.

The heat has now turned against the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami (SAN) for offering a legal advice requested by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Solomon Arase.

His greatest undoing was attempting to carry out what he may have considered his mandate to give legal advise on the directive of the National Assembly that the Kogi State Assembly Complex be sealed off.

While some legal minds have hailed his interpretation as the appropriate legal advice, other learned colleagues of his blamed him for meddling in the National Assembly’s constitutional mandate which it has discharged according to the laid down rules.

Apparently piqued by the alleged affront, the National Assembly invited him and the Inspector General of Police to appear before it as they accused him of fanning the embers of the crisis in the State Assembly.

The Peoples Democratic Party National Youth Frontier (PDPNYF) berated the Attorney General for his alleged repeated partisan interference in legal challenges facing the state.

“First, it was a brazen partisan advice to the Independent national Electoral Commission (INEC) to replace the governorship candidate of APC in Kogi in the controversial supplementary election without recourse to the Nigerian Constitution. We are still battling with Malami’s strange advice in Kogi State.

“Secondly, the same Malami advised the IG of Police to ignore the constitutional decision reached by the National Assembly on the lingering crisis in the Kogi State House of Assembly. No doubt, Malami is Kogi’s number one problem,” they claimed.

A legal practitioner in the State, Barrister Emeje Aruwa said the ongoing crisis began when five members of the House out of 20 members purportedly impeached the Speaker.

He said the other members protested that there was no meeting at which the purported impeachment was done adding that five persons have no power to proceed on such impeachment move.

He argued that even if the five were sitting today whether in the House of Assembly or in the Government House, there was no way their sitting could by any stretch of imagination be considered the sitting of the Kogi State House of Assembly.

“You know that the House of Assembly has not been sitting since then and it’s been a long while. There is a lot of function the House should have performed for orderliness and good governance of Kogi State, the State is bleeding in view of the current issues where we do not seem to have a State House of Assembly”

Aruwa indicated that in that situation, it would not be wrong for the National Assembly to take over the Kogi State House of Assembly, which was in line with section 11 (4) and (5) of Nigeria 1999 Constitution as amended.

He said the provisions of the constitution has given the National Assembly the leeway to make such laws for the peace order and the good governance of the State, meaning that the National Assembly would take over the functions of the House pending when the impasse was resolved.

“As at today can we say the Kogi State House of Assembly is functioning,” he asked rhetorically, adding, “In the first place why would the IG sealed off the premises of the House of Assembly and why would the Attorney General write to say the IG should unseal the House?

“It is because the House is not sitting, it is because there are issues on ground yet to be resolved and they cannot be resolved by force.” He argued that to use executive powers to unseal the House and then come to a conclusion that the House was performing its functions does not solve the problem.

According to him, “Until all the members of the House can seat together again and someone is recognised as the Speaker, then we do not yet have a House of Assembly.”

Hence, he said, it would be proper for the National Assembly to continue to make laws for the good governance of the State pending when those issues are resolved.

“The National Assembly did the right thing and for the Attorney General his advice does not concur with the spirit of the Constitution in Section 11 (4) and (5)

“If you look at section 4 (8), it gives the judiciary power to review the action of the National Assembly not the executive so if for any reason that the National Assembly was wrong in its action, it is only the court that can interpret and examine the actions of the National Assembly and come to a conclusion that the steps taken by the National Assembly was either right or wrong, not the executive.

“We are in a constitutional democracy and there should be separation of powers, the influence of the executive whether at the national level or at the state level over the actions of the legislature should be reduced. Everyone should know their duties and stay by them. I think that what the executive should be doing now is striving to bring all parties together to resolve these issues and not putting a wedge in between them because as long as that continue this issue would never be resolved.

Reminded that the nominal roll of the very faction of five has increased to 10 he said whatever issues it was about an impeachment, “You cannot place something on nothing and expect it to stand. If as at the time of the impeachment they had no power to do it and if it was an illegal act abinitio nothing done subsequently can ratify it.”

Barrister Joel Usman, a legal practitioner and public commentator said the situation at the Assembly wherein five members sat in the absence of 15 to impeach the Speaker was most unfortunate and condemnable.

However he said legally speaking the position of the Attorney General was correct in the sense that Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which is what the National Assembly relied on to take over the functions of the Kogi State House of Assembly did not avail them.

“This is because the condition as contained here is; at anytime any House of Assembly is unable to perform its function by reason of the situation prevailing in that State.

“There is no situation prevailing in Kogi State at the moment that would not allow the House of to sit. The Constitution did not envisage a situation where there is crisis in the State House of Assembly and because of the crisis the National Assembly should just take over, no!”

He said though there was crisis in the Assembly the wording of the Constitution is that by reason of the situation in that State and not in the House. What is happening in Kogi State was crisis in the House that they ordinarily come together and look for a way to go around it.

“For the National Assembly wanting to intervene when a faction; the other group of five can seat, the G15 may be exhibiting cowardice and It raises a lot of questions.

“It is wearisome that the National Assembly is a meddlesome interloper. They are doing busy body in the affairs of Kogi State. We are in a federation with the State Assembly and the National Assembly so I think that the position of the learned Attorney General of the Federation legally speaking was correct.

Morally, however, he blamed the Attorney General for allowing the crises to linger unabated and not advising the House of Assembly to look for a way round the issue.

He said he would have not only condemn the action of the Assembly but also tried to investigate what really happened, whether it was true that 5 members sat out of 20 to impeach the speaker. “I think that is the proper thing to do if all the while he had been quiet. He is only coming out at this time to condemn the action of the National Assembly.

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