Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana has shed some light on the issue bothering the power of the National Assembly to summon members of the public to its hallowed chamber.
Citing two cases for reference purposes, the learned silk concluded that its powers are limited within the purview of the Law.
He said” In my comment on the face-off between the Inspector-General of Police and the Senate I did state ex abundanti cautela, that the Inspector-General of Police could be summoned by the National Assembly if it is conducting an investigation with a view to exposing corruption or enacting law or amending an existing law. With profound respect to my learned colleagues, sections 88 of the Constitution cannot be invoked to inquire into the investigation of s criminal because the section is subject to the provisions of other sections thereof.
I wish to state, without any fear of contradiction that the power of the National Assembly under Sections 88 and 89 are not at large. Unlike some of my colleagues, my views on this matter are essentially anchored on decided cases. Permit me to refer to two of such cases.
In Senate of the National Assembly v. Tony Momoh (1983) 4 NCLR 269 at 295, Nnaemeka-Agu JCA (as he then was) held that “Section 82(2) is designed to eliminate abuse. Any invitation by the House to any person outside the purposes defined by Section 82(2) of the Constitution is invalid. No power exists under the section for general investigation nor for the aggrandizement of the House. So, the appellants were not entitled to have invited the respondent in the first instance.”
Section 82 of the 1979 Constitution is in pari materia with Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution. Hence, in El rufai v. House of Representatives (2003) 46 WRN 70 at 100, Oguntade JCA (as he then was) held inter alia: “in my view their power under the section is further circumscribed and limited by subsection(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)”.
I am sure that some of my colleagues would not dare suggest that the revered Justices of the Court of Appeal who decided the cases of Tony Momoh and El-rufai were talking politics and not law at the material time.
Finally, it may interest this forum to note that sometime in 2014, my learned colleague, Chief Mike Ozekhome was able to secure an order of injunction to restrain the House of Representatives from investigating his client, who was then a serving minister. The said order was granted by the Federal High Court in spite of sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 Constitution as amended!