820 buses: Ambode loses bid to stop probe, heads for A’Court

Former Governor of Lagos, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, has lost his bid to stop the Lagos State House of Assembly from probing him over the purchase of 820 buses for the state’s bus reform project.

Justice Yetunde Adesanya of an Ikeja High Court, yesterday, struck out the suit filed by the former governor.

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

Justice Adesanya held that the ad-hoc committee set up to investigate Ambode is a fact-finding committee, noting that an investigation is not an indictment.

The judge said that the suit lacks competence and will not stop the Assembly from carrying out its constitutional function.

“The claimant (Ambode) has not been indicted. An invitation by an agency of government cannot in anyway cause a breach of the threat of the fundamental rights of the claimant.

“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.

Ambode had earlier instituted a civil suit against the 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 the ad-hoc committee set up by the House to probe the procurement of the buses and eight members of the committee.

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

Ambode instituted the suit against the Assembly to contest the constitutionality of the probe of the buses which were procured based on budgetary approval as part of the Bus Reform Project of the state government designed to revolutionize public transportation in line with global best practices.

According to his statement of claim before the court, Ambode said contrary to deliberate misrepresentation of facts by the lawmakers, the procurement of the 820 buses was well captured in the 2018 Appropriation Law which was duly approved by the House.

The former governor 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 August 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 November 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) pre-emptive/premature and not actionable.

Meanwhile, Ambode has appealed the ruling.

In a notice of appeal filed before the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, Ambode, through his counsel, Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), prayed the court to set aside the decision of the trial court and allow the appeal.

In his four grounds of appeal, Ambode stated that the trial court erred in law when it held that the suit he filed was not mature. He further argued further that the court erred in law when it held that Section 36 (1) of the 1999 constitution does not apply to the exercise of the powers of the defendants under Section 128 of the constitution.

He said that Section 128 (1) of the constitution provides that the exercise of the powers of the House of Assembly is subject to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

He submitted that the trial court erred in law when it held that the claimant’s action does not disclose a reasonable cause of action. According to him, his action is a declarative action, which pleaded the facts of the allegations against him, which were not denied by the defendants.

The former governor pleaded with the appellate court to remit the matter back to the high court to allow the chief judge to reassign it to another judge of the high court for trial.

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