The N250bn legal action instituted against the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and Former Chairman of House Ad hoc Committee on fuel subsidy probe, Hon. Farouk Lawan has been adjourned sine die (indefinitely)
The legal action was brought against the two national lawmakers by Lagos business man, Mr. Femi Otedola, who is claiming the sum as compensation for harassment, intimidation and business loses to him by the defendants while allegedly demanding for $ 3m bribe.
Proceedings in the case were brought to a halt on Wednesday by Justice Peter Kekemeke of an Abuja High Court, following the decision of Hon. Farouk Lawan to challenge the jurisdiction of the High Court at the Court of the Appeal.
Lawan had filed a motion on notice for a stay of proceedings against the ruling of Justice Kekemeke delivered on January 30, wherein the judge said the court has the power to hear the case against the two defendants.
In the motion for stay of action, which was argued yesterday by Mr. Kehinde Ogunwumiju from Chief Afe Babalola’s (SAN) chambers, Hon. Lawan claimed that he dissatisfied with the High Court’s decision to hear the case of Otedola against him.
He informed the court that a notice of appeal had already been filed at the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal and asked the High Court to stop further hearing in the suit pending the final decision of the appellate court.
Otedola and Tambuwal, whose lead counsel Chief Babajide Koku (SAN) and Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) respectively were not in court, did not object to Farouk Lawan’s motion appealing against the jurisdiction.
In his brief ruling, Justice Kekemeke held that the first defendant in the legal battle had satisfied the conditions for a stay of proceedings and adjourned the case sine die.
Tambuwal and Lawan had objected to hearing of Otedola’s case on the ground that they are protected by House Immunity and cannot be taken to court for either civil or criminal matters on any of their actions on the floor of the House.
They had asked the court to dismiss the suit for being too hasty because the House has not adopted the report on the subsidy probe and that there had been no white paper yet on it.
The two defendants had also contended that being agents of the House, they can only be sued at a Federal High Court because the House is an organ of the Federal Government and as such no Abuja High Court has jurisdiction on the suit.
In the objections argued by Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN) for Tambuwal and Kehinde Ogunwumiju for Farouk, they claimed that Otedola freely gave out the bribe and cannot turn around to allege harassment and intimidation against them. Besides, the lawmakers said that Otedola’s case cannot be sustained since he did not join the National Assembly and Clerk of the National Assembly as defendants.
But in his ruling, Justice Peter Kekemeke upheld the submission of Chief Babajide Koku (SAN), counsel to Otedola that Tambuwal and Farouk Lawan cannot use House Immunity as escape route to shield themselves from legal action for wrongful acts carried against the plaintiff outside the confinement of the House.
The fudge agreed with Koku that it was not part of the terms of reference for Farouk’s committee to source bribes from anybody, and as such cannot hide under the immunity conferred on them while on the floor of the House to void the case.
Kekemeke also refused to void the suit on the claim of being in a wrong court, adding that the complaints of Otedola were against alleged harassment, intimidation and acts of arbitrariness by the defendants while demanding for $ 3m and not an attack on the Federal Government revenue or any of its agency that it should warrant going to a Federal High Court.
The court also rejected the claim by Tambuwal and Farouk that the case was baseless since there has been no white paper yet on the probe, saying the plaintiff did not need to wait for any white paper suing them because he was not attacking the probe report.
Justice Kekemeke disclosed that the case of the plaintiff before his court was the demand for $ 3m through phone calls, harassment and intimidation and should not be misconstrued as a challenge on the probe report.
The court held that from the totality of the issues before it, the objections of Tambuwal and Farouk to the suit lacked merit and accordingly dismissed them. The judge also held that from the totality of the submissions before the court, sufficient cause of action had been established against Tambuwal and Farouk and ordered them to file their defence immediately.
Otedola had sued the two lawmakers claiming the sum of N250bn as general and exemplary damages for acts of intimidation, harassment loss of goodwill, patronages, oppressive and arbitrary actions carried against him by the two defendants while allegedly demanding for $ 3m dollar bribe
The oil businessman is also challenging the move by the two lawmakers to re-enlist his company among the indicted companies for subsidy scam by Lawan Committee