A Federal High Court presided over by Justice G.O. Kolawole has delivered a landmark judgment in the case of Festus Keyamo vs House of Representatives and two others (SUIT NO. FHC/ABJ/CS/163/2009).
The court declared as null and void the practice of the National Assembly (in this case the House of Representatives) investigating criminal allegations against individuals and producing Reports/Resolutions indicting or absolving those individuals or directing law enforcement agents or the Executive as to what should be done.
According to the case background: “On 22nd of September, 2008, a National Magazine, Newswatch, carried a story titled “Dirty Car deal”, which alleged that there were fraudulent dealings by the leadership and management of the House of Representatives in the purchase of 380 units of 407 Peugeot cars for its members from Peugeot Automobile Nigeria Limited.
More than a month after the publication, when in the opinion of Mr. Keyamo, there was no satisfactory answer to the said allegations leveled in the story by the leadership of the House of Representatives, Mr. Keyamo wrote a letter dated October 19, 2008 addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives demanding for an open response to the said allegations.
The then Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, instead of replying the said letter, referred the letter to House Committee on Ethics and Privileges which he himself constituted.
Mr. Keyamo was invited to appear before the said Committee as a witness which he did as a law-abiding citizen.
The said Committee sat for several weeks and took several evidence, including that of Mr. Keyamo.
Mr. Keyamo was not made to confront any of those accused neither was he shown or confronted with any document which contradicted his own presentation or documents and was not asked to explain any discrepancy, if any.
The said Committee finally submitted its recommendations in a report which was not made public.
On the 3rd day of March 2009, the House of Representatives sitting in Plenary and subsequently in a Committee of the whole house passed the following Resolutions:
That the committee having found that Mr. Keyamo’s letter is faulty and baseless in its allegations, urge the House to prevail on the inspector-general of police and/or other relevant security agencies to investigate how the annexures/documents attached to Mr. Keyamo’s letter were obtained”.
The House of Representatives then went ahead and “absolved” the then Speaker (Mr. Dimeji Bankole) of the criminal allegations leveled against him in the said publication for which Mr. Keyamo sought explanations.”
Keyamo then proceeded to the Federal High Court to ask whether the National Assembly has the powers to indict or absolve anyone in criminal allegations of mandate any security agency to investigate a plaintiff or any other person.
After years of trial, the Federal High Court presided over by Justice G.O. Kolawole yesterday, the 12th of June, 2018, declared as follows:
“That by virtue of Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, or any other extant legislation, the National Assembly is not constitutionally or legally empowered to investigate criminal allegations and absolve or indict any individual of those allegations.
“That the House of Representative’s Resolution dated 3rd of March, 2009 to the effect that certain annexures attached to Mr. Keyamo’s letter dated October 19, 2008 and addressed to Hon. Dimeji Bankole (who was then the Honourable Speaker, House of Representatives, Federal Republic of Nigeria), are faulty and baseless, to the extent that it absolves certain of its principal officers and management from criminal allegations made against them, and accuses Mr. Keyamo of unwholesome conduct, is null, void and of no effect.
“That by virtue of Section 88 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended and any other extant law, the National Assembly is not constitutionally or legally empowered to make recommendations or pass any resolution concerning the conduct of any person, including Mr. Keyamo who is not charged or intended to be charged, with the duty of or responsibility for:
(a) Executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly and; (b) Disbursing or administering moneys appropriated or to be appropriated by the National Assembly.
“The Resolution of the House of Representatives dated 3rd of March, 2009 especially as it concerns the conduct of Mr. Keyamo is null and void.
“The Nigerian Police and the Department of State Services are restrained from compulsorily giving effect to the Resolution of the House of Representatives dated 3rd of March, 2009 as it concerns Mr. Keyamo.”