A Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on Thursday restrained the National Assembly (NASS) from interfering in the affairs of Edo State House of Assembly.
Justice Kolawole Omotosho in a ruling also stated that NASS could not compel Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo to issue another proclamation within the lifespan of an existing proclamation for inauguration of Edo House of Assembly.
The court gave the order when it delivered judgement in a suit brought by Mr Yekini Idiaye, the Deputy Speaker of Edo Assembly, and Henry Okhuarobo, the member representing Ikpoba-Okha State Constituency.
The plaintiffs had approached the court to challenge alleged moves by NASS to take over the functions of the Edo House of Assembly.
The court also ruled that NASS lacked the power to take over the functions of Edo House of Assembly or any other House of Assembly in the country.
Omotosho said that NASS lacked the power to direct the Edo governor to issue a fresh Proclamation to the Edo State House of Assembly as this would lead to extending the tenure of members of the House of Assembly.
The judge also stated that NASS could not seal or direct anybody to seal the State House of Assembly in Edo because the House is not its appendage.
Omotosho said: “There is nothing before the court to show that the Edo State House of Assembly is unable to sit.
“Some elected members have been inaugurated. The House has been carrying out its legislative duties. The National Assembly lacks the power to take over the Edo State House of Assembly.
“It amounts to taking over the functions of the Edo State House of Assembly. The House of Assembly is not an appendage of the National Assembly.
“The National Assembly lacks the power to seal-up or direct anybody to seal-up the Edo State House of Assembly.
“The Nigerian Constitution is a federal constitution and the National Assembly cannot unilaterally decide that Edo State House of Assembly is in crisis and seal-up same.
“It is only a court of law that has the power to make findings, particularly after listening to parties, to decide if the National Assembly can take over a House of Assembly.
“I hold that it is the court that has the power to define and hold that Edo State House of Assembly cannot function and the National Assembly can take over.
“As far as the law is concerned, the governor of Edo State has given a Proclamation. The National Assembly has no power to direct the governor to issue a fresh proclamation.
“The governor is the Chief Executive of the state and cannot be controlled by the National Assembly.
“The court will be extending the tenure of members of the Edo State House of Assembly if it holds that the governor should issue fresh proclamation.
“Nigeria is a federal state and state governments are autonomous. Our political actors must see it like that and treat them as such.’’
Speaking with journalists after the judgement, the counsel to the plaintiffs, Kingsley Idahosa, expressed gladness at the outcome of the case.
“We are glad that judgement has been entered in our favour. We are glad about it. He (the judge) agreed with our position,” he said.
Also speaking, counsel to Obaseki, Santos Owootori, described the judgement as sound and a victory for democracy.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the plaintiffs had sued in their private capacities.
Joined as respondents in the originating summons were the Clerk of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The Inspector-General of Police, the Director-General, State Security Service, and the Governor of Edo were also joined in the suit.