“I’d like to express my gratitude, especially to my wife, for enduring my interference in her freedom and independence during her time in office.
She displayed remarkable tolerance and even assisted my colleagues despite my encroachment.”
Nonetheless, Senate President Ahmad Lawan interjected firmly, saying, “Distinguished colleague, I believe we should refrain from pursuing this line of discussion; it’s not advisable.”
A Federal High Court in Abuja has, on Tuesday, dismissed Senator Adamu Bulkachuwa’s lawsuit aimed at halting the ICPC’s investigation into comments he made during the valedictory session of the 9th National Assembly.
In his judgment, Justice Inyang Ekwo stated that the suit lacked merit and should be rejected. He emphasized that Senator Bulkachuwa, as a legislator, should have understood the implications of his remarks on the Senate floor.
Justice Ekwo pointed out that the legislative immunity claimed by the plaintiff did not apply in this case. He stated, “It is the responsibility of every law-abiding citizen to assist and cooperate with law enforcement agencies in carrying out their statutory duties. A cause of action can only arise if a law enforcement agency violates a citizen’s fundamental rights while carrying out its statutory functions.”
Senator Bulkachuwa had filed a lawsuit against the Attorney-General of the Federation, the NASS clerk, the State Security Service, ICPC, and the Nigeria Police Force as the 1st to 5th defendants, respectively.
In his suit, he sought a declaration that he was covered by parliamentary immunity as defined in Section 1 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017, and that his freedom of speech and expression was privileged.
He also asked the court to declare that no other law enforcement agency of the Federal Government, including the defendants, could question or interview any Senate member without exhausting the internal disciplinary mechanisms, recommendations, and approval of the 9th Senate.
Justice Ekwo ruled that the statement made by Senator Bulkachuwa during the June 10th Senate session was not protected by Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution. He clarified that while the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it does not permit individuals to say whatever they please.
In a formal setting like a plenary session or committee proceedings in the Senate, individuals are expected to express opinions or provide information that can be defended under the constitution. Senator Bulkachuwa’s confession of influencing a judicial officer to aid his friends and colleagues went beyond the bounds of protected speech, making it subject to investigation by law enforcement agencies.
Justice Ekwo concluded, “A person who uses the constitutional opportunity to freely express himself and uses that opportunity to reveal actions or conduct that the law of the land criminalizes has inadvertently invited law enforcement agencies to question him. This is what the plaintiff did in this case. Therefore, I find that the plaintiff’s speech on the floor of the Senate on June 10 was a confession of an illegal act, and Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution cannot be invoked to protect such speech.”