Stay Away from Assembly Complex, Appeal Court Orders Suspended Edo PDP Lawmakers
The Court of Appeal sitting in Benin City, Edo State has reaffirmed an order of a Benin High Court which ordered the suspended Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lawmakers in the state House of Assembly to obey the restraining order made against them.
Subsequently, the Appeal Court ordered the suspended lawmakers to stay away from the assembly complex pending the determination of the suit.
A Benin High Court presided over by Justice V.O. Eboreime had on June 16 restrained the suspended Deputy Speaker of the assembly, Festus Ebea, Jude Ise-Idehen, Friday Ogieriakhi and Patrick Osayimwen from forcibly gaining entrance into the premises and legislative quarters.
Dissatisfied with the ruling of the High Court, the suspended lawmakers approached the Court of Appeal in Benin City where they filed a stay of execution application against the order.
But ruling on the application, Justice Morounkeji. Ogunwunmiju, who read the ruling on behalf of his colleagues, declared that “the said suspended members could not seek any relief from the Court of Appeal while they were in contempt or disobedience of the order of the high court.”
Taking a swipe at the four lawmakers, Justice Ogunwunmiju ruled that a party, which was in contempt of a vaild order of court, cannot be allowed to seek or obtain any relief from the court while the contempt persists.
The court further held that a party which believes that an order against it was made without jurisdiction was still bound to obey same until it was set aside.
The court was also of the opinion that the application for stay of execution was premature as the four suspended legislators should have allowed the High Court to hear and determine the motion on notice rather than rushing to the Appeal Court.
She therefore ordered the suspended lawmakers to obey the lower court order before approaching it for a stay of execution.
Ogunwumiju said the appellants should have obeyed the lower court’s decision before seeking an order for stay of execution, noting that failure to obey the decision of the lower court amounted to disobedience and dismissed the appellants’ applications.
“The appellants have a duty to obey the order of the court restraining them from going into the premises and you cannot be in disobedience of the court order. The decision belongs to the court and not to the parties.
The four lawmakers had approached a Federal High Court, sitting in Benin City and obtained an interim order to restrain the Speaker of the assembly from declaring their seats vacant, in line with section 109 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
They also prayed that both the Speaker and the assembly should be restrained from suspending them, as members of the assembly, on disciplinary grounds.
However, while the Federal High Court ordered that the Speaker, Hon. Uyi Igbe, should not declare their seats vacant pending the determination of the suit, the court however refused the prayer for an injunction restraining the applicants from being suspended from the assembly as Justice A.M Liman ruled that: “The disciplinary power of the assembly is not subject to the judicial review of the court, accordingly the application to restrain the second respondent from suspending the applicants from the assembly is hereby refused.”
Subsequently, on June 9, the four lawmakers were suspended from plenary by the assembly for “gross misconduct”, in accordance with the rules of the assembly.
Also, the Speaker and the assembly approached the state High Court to restrain the four suspended legislators from forcing themselves into the chambers of the assembly pending the determination of the case.
The state High Court, after hearing the arguments of both sides, granted an interim order restraining the four suspended legislators from forcing themselves into the hallowed chambers. The court gave an order of Interlocutory Injunction: “restraining the defendants by themselves or agents, assigns, privies, or other persons acting for, through or by them from forcibly gaining entrance into the premises and legislative quarters of the 3rd claimant or howsoever interfering with the sitting activities and other functions of the 3rd claimant pending the determination of the suit.
However, in flagrant disobedience of the court order, the four lawmakers have continued to sit in the chambers of the assembly.
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