Court Clears Way For Ambode’s Probe Over Purchase of 820 Buses

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SWITZERLAND, FEBRUARY 27 – An Ikeja High Court on Thursday held that former Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos cannot stop the state Assembly from probing him over his administration’s purchase of 820 buses for the state’s bus reform project.

In a one-hour ruling, Justice Yetunde Adesanya said that Ambode’s suit, which sought an injunction to restrain the Assembly from probing him, breached the doctrine of separation of powers.

She said: “An ad-hoc committee is an investigative committee performing a fact finding function and not a court, judicial body or a tribunal.

“It is not set up to determine the civil rights and obligations of the claimant.

“In the same breath, an investigation is not an indictment, it precedes an indictment.

“The claimant, in this instance, has not been indicted by the House of Assembly neither has the committee indicted the claimant by a mere invitation by summons to appear before it,” she said.

The judge held that an invitation by the committee did not constitute a beach of the former governor’s fundamental right to fair hearing as contained in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.

“The ad-hoc committee is yet to carry out its constitutional function as contained in Section 128 and 129 of the Constitution.

“Assuming that the claimant’s claim of bias by the constituted ad-hoc committee is real and well founded that some members of the committee had concluded that the claimant is guilty of the allegation before inviting him to appear before the committee, this will still not amount to a threat to his fundamental right to fair hearing because the whole exercise is nothing more than an investigation,” she said.

Striking out the case, Adesanya described Ambode’s suit as an attempt to invoke judicial interference in the powers of the legislature.

“I hereby find that the claimant’s action is an invitation to the court to cripple the legislative exercise of the statutory power of the Lagos State House of Assembly under Section 128 and 129 of the 1999 Constitution.

“That is not the function of the court, and no court of law should accede such invitation. The claimant’s suit is hereby struck out,” she said.

NAN reports that Ambode through his counsel, Mr Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), had through a writ of summons and statement of claim dated Oct. 24, 2019, sued Lagos State House of Assembly, its Speaker, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, and the House Clerk, Mr A.A Sanni.

Other respondents to the suit are Mr Fatai Mojeed, the Chairman of an-hoc committee set up by the House to probe the procurement of the 820 buses,and eight members of the committee.

The members of the committee are: Mr Gbolahan Yishawu, Mr A.A. Yusuf, Mr Yinka Ogundimu, Mrs Mojisola Meranda, Mr M.L. Makinde, Mr Kehinde Joseph, Mr Temitope Adewale and Mr Olanrewaju Afinni.

Ambode had sought an injunction to restrain the lawmakers from compelling him to appear before the committee, pursuant to a resolution passed by House of Assembly on Aug. 27, as well as any other resolution passed in respect of the probe.

The former governor sought a second injunction restraining the respondents from representing or continuing to represent to the public that the he procured 820 buses in breach of budgetary approval.

Mr Olukayode Enitan (SAN), counsel to the lawmakers, had via a preliminary objection dated Nov. 14, 2019, challenged the competence and jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit based on three grounds.

The grounds are that the suit was ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority) preemptive/premature and not actionable.

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