The National Assembly has no powers to take over the legislative functions of the Edo State House of Assembly or that of any other House of Assembly in the country, Justice Kolawole Omotoso, of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, declared on Thursday.
Justice Omotoso also ruled that the National Assembly lacked the powers to direct Governor Godwin Obaseki to issue fresh proclamation to the House of Assembly.
According to him, a fresh proclamation would amount to an extension of tenure for the lawmakers.
Thursday’s ruling followed an application filed by some Edo lawmakers to challenge moves by the National Assembly to seal off the state legislative chambers and take over their statutory functions following an internal crisis of the House.
In the ruling on Thursday, Justice Omotoso, said only a court of competent jurisdiction and not the National Assembly could issue such a directive
He said it was only the court of law that can direct the National Assembly to take over or seal the Edo House of Assembly.
The judge said: “There is nothing before the court showing that the Edo State House of Assembly is unable to sit. Some elected members have been inaugurated. The House has been carrying out its legislative duties.
“The National Assembly lacks the power to take over the Edo State House of Assembly. It amounts to taking over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is not an appendage of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly lacks the power to seal-up or direct anybody to seal-up the Edo State House of Assembly. The Nigerian Constitution is a federal constitution and the National Assembly cannot unilaterally decide that the Edo State House of Assembly is in crisis and seal-up same.
“It is only a court of law that has the power to make findings, particularly after listening to parties, to decide if the National Assembly can take over a House of Assembly.
“I hold that it is the court that has the power to define and hold that the Edo State House of Assembly cannot function and the National Assembly can take over.
“As far as the law is concerned, the governor of Edo State has given a proclamation. The National Assembly has no power to direct the governor to issue a fresh proclamation. The governor is the chief executive of the state and cannot be controlled by the National Assembly.
“The court will be extending the tenure of members of the Edo State House of Assembly if it holds that the governor should issue a fresh proclamation. Nigeria is a federal state and state governments are autonomous. Our political actors must see it like that and treat them as such.”
The Deputy Speaker, Yekini Idiaye and Henry Okhuarobo had shortly after the National Assembly moved to seal the state legislative chambers, approached the court to challenge the plan by the National Assembly to take over functions of the House of Assembly.
Joined in the suit were: National Assembly Clerk; Senate president; House of Representatives speaker; Police Inspector-General (IG); Department of State Services (DSS) and Edo State governor.
Speaking to reporters, Counsel to Obaseki, Santos Owootori, described the judgement as sound, describing it as victory for democracy.
Also speaking, counsel to the claimants, Kingsley Idahosa, said it was good that the judgement went in his clients’ favour.
National Assembly’s lawyer Sandra Osinachi described the ruling as judgement for democracy.