⦿ CASE SUMMARY OF:
El-rufai v. The House of Representaives And National Assembly of Nigeria (2003) – CA
– Investigation by House of representatives;
– Civil Rights;
Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-rufai
1. The House of Representatives, National Assembly of The Federal Republic of Nigeria
2. Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’abba – Speaker House Of Representatives
3. Mr. O. Ogunyomi
4. Attorney-General of The Federation and Minister Of Justice
Court of Appeal
⦿ LEAD JUDGEMENT DELIVERED BY:
George Adesola Oguntade, JCA
⦿ LAWYERS WHO ADVOCATED
* FOR THE APPELLANT
Mr. Ricky Tarfa SAN
* FOR THE RESPONDENT
Chief A. A. Izinyon SAN – For 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents.
Mr. K. A. Adabale – For 4th respondent
The Appellant was summoned by the 1st respondent through its’ letter to the former because he, the Appellant, made a statement termed derogatory by 1st respondent.
The Appellant as plaintiff, then instituted an action at the Federal High Court demanding that the 1st respondent has no power to investigate him.
The 1st respondent raised an objection that the Court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter. The Court upheld the objection. However, the Court heard the substantive matter simultaneously, and held that the matter brought before the court is premature and speculative.
The Appellant has herein appealed on the basis of the jurisdiction and the substance decided by the Federal High Court.
(i) Whether or not the trial Federal High Court has jurisdiction to entertain the appellant’s originating summons dated and filed on the 21st of March, 2002.
(ii) Whether or not the appellant’s suit as commenced by the originating summons dated 21st March, 2002 was premature.
⦿ HOLDING & RATIO DECIDENDI
For issues 1 & 2 the Court of Appeal held for the respondent.
i. It is my view that on the facts of this case, the lower court would ordinarily have jurisdiction to entertain this suit if the plaintiff were able to establish that his civil rights had been or were likely to be interfered with by the defendants. However, all that the plaintiff showed was that he had been invited by the letter dated 20/3/02 to appear before the 1st defendant’s committee on ethics and privileges. That invitation without more would not amount to an interference with plaintiff’s civil rights. Whilst the lower court would have jurisdiction there was as yet no justiciable wrong committed by the respondents.
Section 4(2), (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
Section 88 & 89 of CFRN 1999;
⦿ SOME PROVISIONS
Section 3 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, Cap. 208, 1990 Laws of the Federation which provides:
3. No civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against any member of a Legislative House in respect of words spoken before that House or a committee thereof, or in respect of words written in a report to that house or to any committee thereof or in any petition, bill, resolution, motion or question brought or introduced by him therein.
Sections 4, 5 and 6 of Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, Cap. 208, 1990 Laws of the Federation Cap. 208 provides:
4. A committee of a legislative house authorized by the standing orders thereof or by a resolution of the house to send for person, papers and records may order any person – to attend before it and to give evidence; or to attend before it and to produce any paper, book, record or other document in the possession or control of such person.
5. (1) Any order to attend, to give evidence or to produce documents before a committee of a legislative house in accordance with section 4 of this Act shall be notified to the person required to attend or to produce documents, by a summons under the hand of the clerk of the house issued by the direction of the President or speaker thereof. (2) In every summons issued in accordance with subsection (1) of this section, there shall be stated the time when and the place where the person summoned is required to attend and, in the case of an order made in accordance with paragraph (b) of section 4 of this Act, the documents he is required to produce.
(3) Subject to the provisions of subsection (4) of this section, every such summons shall be served on the person mentioned therein by delivering to him a copy thereof and there shall be paid or tendered to the person so summoned such sum for expenses as may be authorized by standing order of the house.
(4) A summons issued in accordance with this section may be served by an officer of a legislative house or by a police officer. Provided that the President or Speaker may, if he is satisfied that for any reason personal service of a summons cannot be effected, order that service be effected by forwarding the same by registered post addressed to the person to whom it is directed at his last known place of abode or business.
6. (1) If a person to whom a summons under section 5 of this Act is directed does not attend before the committee at the time and place mentioned therein, the President or Speaker, as the case may be, of the legislative house may, upon being satisfied that the summons was duly served or that the person to whom the summons is directed willfully avoids service, issue a warrant to apprehend him and bring him, at a time and place to be stated in the warrant, before the committee. (2) A warrant issued under this section shall be executed by a police officer.
(3) The President or Speaker, as the case may be, on issuing a warrant for the arrest of any person under this section, may if he thinks fit, by endorsement on the warrant, direct that the person named in the warrant be released after arrest on his entering into such a recognizance before a Magistrate for his appearance before the committee of the legislative house as may be required in the endorsement.
Sections 24, 30 and 32 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, Cap. 208 provide:
24. (1) Any person who –
(a) publishes any statement, whether in writing or otherwise, which falsely or scandalously defames a legislative house or any committee thereof; or
(b) publishes any writing reflecting of the character of the President or Speaker, as the case may be, of a legislative house or the Chairman of a committee of a legislative house in the conduct of his duty as such President, Speaker or Chairman; or
(c) publishes any writing containing a gross, willful or scandalous misrepresentation of the proceedings of a legislative house or of the speech of any member in the proceedings of a legislative house, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of two hundred naira or to imprisonment for twelve months, or to both such fine and imprisonment.
(2) In this section “publish,” in relation to any writing, means exhibiting in public, or causing to be read or seen, or showing or delivering, or causing to be shown or delivered, with the intent that the writing may be read or seen by any person.
30. Neither the President or Speaker, as the case may be, of a legislative house nor any officer of a legislative house shall be subject to the jurisdiction of any court in respect of the exercise of any power conferred on or vested in him by or under this Act or the standing orders of the legislative house, or by the Constitution.
32. No prosecution shall be instituted for an offence under this Act except by the Attorney- General of the Federation upon information given to him in writing by the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Representatives, or by the Attorney-General of a State upon information given to such officer by the speaker of the legislative house of a state.
Order 5 rule 1 of the 1st defendant’s rules dealing with its privileges provides:
1. (a) Privileges are the rights enjoyed by the house collectively and by the members of the house individually conferred by the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 1990 and other statutes, practices, precedents, usages and customs.
(b) Whenever a matter of privilege arises, it shall be taken into consideration immediately.
(c) In cases where adequate provision is not made in this standing orders, resort shall be had to the practices of the British House of Commons as far as can be applied.
⦿ NOTABLE DICTA
It cannot escape notice that under section 88(2) above, the 1st defendant can only conduct the stated investigation in two situations for the purpose of enabling it to – (a) Make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and (b) Expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated to it. – Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)
Under section 32 of the Cap. 208 above, if the 1st defendant was of the view that the plaintiff had committed an offence under section 24 above, all it could do was to give information in writing through its speaker to the Attorney-General of the Federation so that the plaintiff could be prosecuted. Having determined that the plaintiff had committed an offence against it, the duty which the law imposes on the 1st defendant was clear. There was nothing left to it or its committee to further investigate, once a determination was made that an offence had been committed. – Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)
In my view their power under the section is further circumscribed and limited by sub-section (2) of section 82. They can only invite members of the public when they want to gather facts for the purpose of enabling them make law or amend existing laws in respect of any matter within their legislative competence or as witnesses in a properly constituted inquiry under section 82(1)(b). Their power to expose corruption, inefficiency, or waste is also limited to government departments, authorities, and functionaries. – Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)
It appears rather from the resolution, exhibit A, and the proceedings of the house, exhibit C, that the purposes is the decision of the house to show resentment for the respondent’s affront in daring to publish something about highly placed legislators rather than a plan for the investigation of the members for abuse. This should not be. The essence of section 82(2) of the Constitution is invalid (sic). No power exists under the section for general investigation nor for the aggrandizement of the house. So, the [respondents] were not entitled to have invited the [appellant] in the first instance. – Oguntade, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)
A summons in law is the first respectful document through which a person is invited to a Court of Law or to any administrative body vested with quasi-judicial functions. A person is only “compelled” to appeal when he refuses to honour that civil summons. Then a bench warrant is ordered which will bring the person in disobedience of the summons to the court or administrative body through compulsion. – Tanko, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)
A court of law acts on reality, i.e. what has actually taken place or is taking place at the time of complaint. Hardly has speculation any place in law. If there is allegation, then there must be proof to substantiate that allegation. – Tanko, JCA. El-Rufai v. House of Representatives (2003)