“It has been brought to our attention through several publications in both the online and mainstream media that the Nigerian Senate has directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions (hereinafter referred to as “the Committee”), to issue a Warrant of Arrest against our client, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, for failing to appear before it.
We respectfully urge the Inspector General of Police and other law enforcement agencies to disregard any such Warrant of Arrest (if issued) and resist the invitation to drag themselves into this illegal scheme. To set the records straight, the antecedents of this matter are briefly reproduced hereunder.
Pursuant to a petition written by one George Uboh against our client, the Senate referred the petition to the Committee for investigation. In the course of the investigation, the Committee wrote a letter of invitation to our client as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), inviting him to a meeting with the Committee on 5th November, 2015.
Owing to prior engagements, our client could not attend that meeting and this was duly communicated to the Committee. However, on the 9th of November, 2015, our client was relieved of his duties as the Chairman of the EFCC and he handed over all obligations, duties and responsibilities pertaining to his office to Ibrahim Mustapha Magu, who was appointed Acting Chairman.
Despite the fact that our client had handed over to the Acting Chairman, another letter of invitation was sent to him on 11th November, 2015 inviting him for a meeting with the Committee on 17th November, 2015. Our client could not honour that invitation as he was out of the country on his 3-month terminal leave. However, on the said 11th November, 2015, we appeared before the Committee to represent our client and raised objections to the conduct of the investigations by the Committee on two grounds.
First, the Constitution stipulates that the Committee can compel the attendance of a witness by issuing a proper SUMMONS and not an INVITATION LETTER. In the circumstances, it was contended that our client had not been summoned at all. In addition, section 88 of the 1999 Constitution stipulates that only a person presently occupying a public office can be investigated by the Senate in relation to that office and since at the time of this invitation, our client had vacated the office, he could no longer be made the subject of any investigation by the Senate. We contended that, however, any Nigerian can be summoned by the Senate as a WITNESSin any matter. Despite these cogent objections, the Committee denied us audience and threatened to have our client arrested.
As a law abiding citizen, our client instructed us to institute an action at the Federal High Court seeking an interpretation of the powers of the Senate with respect to investigations. In compliance with our client’s instructions, we instituted the said suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/934/15 on 19th November, 2015 at the Federal High Court and it was assigned to Honourable Justice G.O. Kolawole sitting at Federal High Court 8, Abuja. Both the Senate and the Committee were served with the Originating Summons and a Motion seeking an Interlocutory Injunction restraining the Senate from continuing with their investigations pending the determination of the suit. The processes were served on them on 20thNovember, 2015, but since then, they have refused, ignored and failed to file any process in defence of the suit.
The suit came up before Justice G.O. Kolawole for hearing on the 9th December, 2015 and 10thFebruary, 2016 and on both occasions, hearing Notices were served on the Senate and the Committee but on both occasions, they were absent and unrepresented by legal practitioners. At the proceedings of 10th February, 2016, the application for Interlocutory injunction was heard but in its wisdom, the Honourable court decided to give both the Senate and the Senate Committee another chance to come and answer to our client’s suit and the suit was subsequently adjourned till 14th March, 2016 for the Senate to respond to our client’s case.
As a law-abiding Police Force, you are aware that one of the Pillars of our democracy is the respect for the Rule of Law. By extension, this implies that when matters are pending before a court of law, all parties are expected to maintain status quo pending the determination of the matter. In any event, the Senate Standing Rules are clear to the effect that matters pending before a court of law should not be deliberated upon or discussed on the floor of the Senate or any of its Committees. This is the reason why our client’s case is clearly different from the case of other citizens against whom Warrants of Arrest have been issued by competent courts of law. Whilst there is no restriction on the powers of a court of law to issue a Warrant of Arrest against anybody who fails to honour its Summons, the Senate’s own rules forbid it to do anything in respect of matters that are pending in a court of law.
The conducts of the Senate and the Committee amount to legislative rascality as they seek to usurp the powers of the judiciary and to undermine its authority. We most respectfully urge the Nigeria Police Force to await the outcome of the matter pending in court before deciding one way or the other about the enforcement of the said Warrant of Arrest, if eventually issued.
If the court decides otherwise against our position, our client is prepared to appear before the Senate or any of its Committees.
We issue this statement on behalf of and on the instruction of our client, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde.