A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has dismissed the suit brought before it by Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa seeking to stop the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Department of State Services (DSS) from investigating him over the comment he made during the valedictory session of the 9th National Assembly.
In a judgement delivered on Tuesday by Justice Inyang Ekwo, the court held that the suit lacked merit and ought to be dismissed and added that, Bulkachuwa, being a lawmaker, ought to understand the implication of the statement that he made on the floor of the Senate.
According to him, the legislative immunity which the plaintiff (Bulkachuwa) claims in this case does not avail him.
Justice Ekwo said, “It is the duty of every law-abiding citizen to assist and cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their quest to carry out their statutory function. It is only where a law enforcement agency breaches the fundamental right of a citizen in the process of carrying out their statutory function, that a cause of action could be said to have arisen.”
Bulkachuwa, in his suit numbered, FHC/ABJ/CS/915/2023, listed the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Clerk of the National Assembly, Department of State Service (DSS), ICPC and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) as 1st to 5th defendants respectively.
The plaintiff asked the court to declare that he, “is covered, privileged and protected by the parliamentary immunity as enshrined in Section 1 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017 and freedom of speech and expression made thereto is privileged.”
He also prayed the court to declare that without exhausting the internal disciplinary mechanism, recommendations and approval of the 9th House of Senate, no other law enforcement agent of the Federal Government, including the defendants can invite any member of the Senate for questioning/interview.
Justice Ekwo, in his judgement said, the utterance made by Bulkachuwa on the floor of the Senate on June 10 was not covered by Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution and held that, “the provision is that every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
According to the judge, the clear words of Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) cannot be interpreted to mean that a person can say anything he likes.
The judge said, in a formal setting like that plenary session or committee proceedings of the Senate, It is not expected of a person who is privileged to voice any expression, will utter words or express opinion or impart Ideas or gives’ Information that cannot be defended under the constitution.”
He said, “Upon studying the provision of Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), it is my opinion, that the words uttered by the plaintiff on the floor of the Senate on Saturday, 10th June, 2023 was a confession of doing an act that is prohibited by law.
“When a person confesses that he influenced a judicial officer to help his friends and colleagues, such a person has gone beyond the limit of freedom of speech that is reasonably covered and protected by the provision of Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“A person who has used the opportunity given to him by the constitution to express himself freely and uses the opportunity to expose his actions or conduct which the law of the land criminalises, has unwittingly invited law enforcement agencies to question him.
“This is what the plaintiff did in this case. I therefore find that the speech of the plaintiff on the floor of the Senate on June 10, was a confession of illegal act and Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) cannot be invoked to cover such and I so hold,” Justice Ekwo held.
Senator Bulkachuwa in his remarks at the 9th Assembly valedictory session, amongst other things, referred to “confidential dealings” he had had with some of his colleagues in the Senate, said, “I look at faces in this chamber whom have come to me and sought for my help when my wife was the President of the Court of Appeal.q
“And, I must thank particularly, my wife, whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while she was in office, and she has been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment, and extended her help to my colleagues…”, before he was interrupted by the former Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
A lot of people in the legal profession have condemned the statement made by the federal lawmaker, representing Bauchi North Senatorial District, in the Senate, including the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), who called for Bulkachuwa’s investigation and prosecution.
The NBA boss said, Bulkachuwa, in his statements, clearly admitted that he perverted and interfered with the due administration of justice in Nigeria, hence, he must be investigated and prosecuted.
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