The senator representing Bauchi North senatorial district, Sen. Adamu Bulkachuwa, has accused the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, the Department of State Services and others of colluding with his political enemies to harass him.
Bulkachuwa said while appearing before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in a suit filed against the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Clerk of the National Assembly, and others.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/895/2023 filed by his lawyer, Donald Ayibiowu, Bulkachuwa, a senator in the 9th National Assembly, also joined the State Security Service, also known as DSS, the ICPC and the Nigeria Police Force as defendants.
The ex-lawmaker, who is the husband of the immediate-past President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, said the ICPC and other security agencies had continued to harass him since his valedictory comment on the floor of the Senate, which his political enemies continued to misrepresent.
He cited the June 15 letter of invitation sent to him by the ICPC over his comment on the floor of the Senate, which many had misinterpreted to mean that he had influenced his wife’s handling of some cases while she was the president of the Court of Appeal.
But he argued that as a serving senator when he made the comment, he was, by law, immune to arrest or detention over any of his conduct, action or speech on the floor of the Senate.
In a supporting affidavit, he said he was freely expressing himself on the floor of the upper legislative chamber when the then Senate President, Ahmad Lawal, interjected and prevented him from completely expressing his thoughts.
He said he was neither questioned nor disciplined by the Senate for any wrongdoing.
Bulkachuwa stated that he was surprised to receive an invitation from the ICPC, asking him to report for an interview on June 22 for interrogation over his comment on the floor of the Senate.
He argued that by law, it was only the Senate in session (committee of the whole) or any of its sub-committees that had the disciplinary power to invite him to answer any question or questions relating to his conduct or utterances on the floor of the upper chamber.
“The National Assembly is an independent arm of government with its own regulatory power and every Senator, including the plaintiff, has the parliamentary immunity to boldly express themselves on the floor of the Senate without any fear of sanctions from the executive arm of government, for and on behalf of their constituents.
“Hence, the immunity conferred on members to allow or grant lawmakers the freedom of speech they required and confidence on the floor of the Senate.”
Bulkachuwa alleged that the defendants, particularly the ICPC, had joined his political opponents “to adopt and propagate the unintended inference from the said inchoate valedictory speech made on the floor of the Senate.
“The defendants, particularly the (ICPC or any other law enforcement agency of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, do not have the powers to invite/discipline me (as serving member of the Senate at the time of my utterance in reference) for questioning/interview on any matter that occurred on the floor of the Senate without the prior approval of the Senate Committee saddled with the investigation of the actions of a member.”
He argued that “no civil or criminal proceedings can lie against a serving member of the Senate on account of the speech/utterances made on the floor of the Senate unless and until the Senate exhausts its disciplinary powers over such a member.”
He said that because he was a politician, the defendants, jointly and severally, might have decided to join forces with his political foes to question him and discipline him for his said statement, made on the floor of the Senate.
He, therefore, prayed the court to, among others, declare that he was covered and protected by Parliamentary Immunity as enshrined in Section 1 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act of 2017.
Bulkachuwa also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants and other agencies of the Federal Government from further inviting or compelling him “to appear before them for interviews or questioning in respect of his inchoate utterances on the floor of the 9th Senate.”
Upon resumed hearing on Thursday, Bulkachuwa’s lawyer, Donald Ayibiowu, urged the court to grant all the reliefs sought.
In a counter affidavit, the Clerk of the National Assembly argued that Bulkachuwa enjoyed immunity from any form of proceedings in respect of words spoken or written at the plenary session.
Lawyer to the AGF, Oyin Koleoso, faulted the plaintiff’s argument, contending that he no longer had any immunity from arrest and prosecution because he had ceased to be a senator.
Koleoso urged the court to dismiss the suit.
O. A. Aderounmu, who appeared for the DSS, and ICPC’s lawyer, U. M. Narimir also urged the court to dismiss the case.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until Oct. 25 for judgment. (NAN)