The Nigerian Senate has been told not to delve into prejudice over the alleged assault case between the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) Justice Danladi Umar and one Mr Clement Sargwak since the matter is pending in the court of competent jurisdiction.
The statement of caution was issued by the Counsel to Justice Danladi Umar on Sunday by the head of Chambers of Abuka and Partners, Barr. Sunday Edward, following some media reports credited to the Chairman of Senate Committee on Public Petitions and Privileges, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, that the accused infringed on the rights of a poor Nigerian who didn’t have money to approach the Court.
The lead counsel argued that, the comment didn’t only amount to prejudice, but was offensive to the rule of natural justice, given that the Senate’s power to hear the petition was being challenged at the Court of Appeal as a third respondent.
Citing several letters submitted to the Senate, lawyers to Umar maintained that the matter which the Senate was insisting to entertain was already pending in courts, adding that the issue of “who assaulted who”, was also in court.
It’s recalled that the Senate, through its Committee on Public Petitions and Privileges on Wednesday stated that Justice Danladi Umar was “fooling it for not appearing before it in person.”
Part of the statement averred: “We are solicitors to Mr. Danladi Umar, the Honourable Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal, hereinafter referred to as ’’our client’’ and on whose instructions we write.
“Our client availed us with a copy of a letter from the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, dated 11th October, 2022.
“From the said letter, our client was asked to appear before the Committee on Wednesday, 19th October, 2022, by 2:00 pm, for the public hearing of the petition of one Clement Sargwak for alleged assault and violent attack on him by our client.
“The Committee, from its said letter, invited our client to appear before it on 19th October, 2022 because to the Committee, the court had ’’ruled that the National Assembly could not be stopped from doing its work as it is related to the petition’’.
“The Committee did not deem it necessary to disclose that there is a pending appeal on the said matter and that the Committee is the 3rd Respondent in the said appeal.
“We reacted by writing a letter dated 17th October, 2022 (to the Committee) through which we advised the Committee that the court’s ruling it referred to in its letter under reference ’’is the subject matter of APPEAL NO. CA/ABJ/CV/866/2022 MR. DALANDI UMAR V. SENATE & 3 ORS which is pending at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division —’’ and we forwarded, for the Committee’s confirmation, the acknowledgement copy of the Notice of Appeal duly served on the Senate.
“We also, for ease of reference, availed the Committee with a copy of our letter dated 13th July, 2021 through which the Committee was informed that the case between our client and the said Clement Sargwak (the petitioner) is before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1544/2021 MR. DANLADI UMAR V. CLEMENT SARGWAK.
“We reminded the Committee that the originating process in the said Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1544/2021 MR. DANLADI UMAR V. CLEMENT SARGWAK was forwarded to it vide our said letter dated 13th July, 2021 and that from the said originating process, the issue of who assaulted who and the issue of whether or not Clement Sargwak had discontinued and/or withdrawn his petition before the Honourable Committee are the subject matters of the said Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1544/2021 MR. DANLADI UMAR V. CLEMENT SARGWAK.
“In addition to causing our letter dated 17th October, 2022 to be served on the Committee, we also showed up at the venue of the said hearing (Meeting Room 120, New Senate Building, National Assembly Complex, Abuja on Wednesday, 19th October, 2022, by 2:00 pm) to confirm that the Committee saw our letter and would respect the pending APPEAL NO. CA/ABJ/CV/866/2022 MR. DALANDI UMAR V. SENATE & 3 ORS and Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1544/2021 MR. DANLADI UMAR V. CLEMENT SARGWAK which render, sub judice, the matter the Committee is seeking to hear.
“Not surprisingly, the Committee did not sit on the said Wednesday, 19th October, 2022, and neither the petitioner nor his counsel was before the Committee on that day.
“We were shocked to read the comments credited to the Committee Chairman in different social media platforms which include that ’’the CCT Chairman infringed on the right of a young Nigerian who had no money to approach the court —’’.
The said comments are not only judgmental but also prejudicial to the suit that is pending before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (that is, Suit No. FCT/HC/CV/1544/2021 MR. DANLADI UMAR V. CLEMENT SARGWAK).
“How the Chairman of the Committee came to his conclusion, when the matter is yet to be heard, is what we do not understand. We are also at sea as to why the Committee will insist on hearing a petition when its power to hear same is being challenged at the Court of Appeal and is yet to be pronounced upon.
“The comments credited to the Chairman of the Committee offend not only the pending suits but also the rule of natural justice (nemo judex in causa sua) which states that a man shall not be a judge in his own course.
“The Senate that we know will not delve into a matter that is sub judice and will not encourage any of its Committees to disrespect courts of law (including the of Court of Appeal) which have the jurisdiction to hear the matters before them and come to the appropriate conclusions.
“The Senate is most humbly urged to call the Chairman of its said Committee to order and restrain him from making comments that are prejudicial to the ongoing suits”, it concluded.
Umar vs Sargwak: Senate told not to prejudice matter before Court