The National Assembly (NASS) Clerk, Magaji Tambuwal, has told the Federal High Court in Abuja that a former senator, Adamu Bulkachuwa, could not be arrested over his confessional comment that he influenced the decisions of his wife as the President of the Court of Appeal.
Mr Tambuwal said Mr Bulkachuwa enjoyed immunity from any form of proceedings in respect of words spoken or written at the plenary session.
He said this in a counter-affidavit filed in response to Mr Bulkachuwa’s suit.
Mr Bulkachuwa filed the suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja after receiving an invitation from the anti-corruption agency, ICPC, three days before he was expected to appear before the investigative team of the anti-corruption agency.
Mr Bulkachuwa, who represented Bauchi North senatorial district in the immediate-past 9th National Assembly, had shocked many when he admitted to trampling on his wife’s freedom and independence while she served as President of the Court of Appeal.
The former senator, 83, an All Progressives Congress (APC) senator between June 2019 and June 2023, boasted about how he, on different occasions, influenced the decisions of his wife, Zainab Bulkachuwa, to the advantage of his colleagues in the Senate.
Mrs Bulkachuwa was the President of the Court of Appeal from 2014 to 2020, when she retired from the court after clocking the mandatory retirement age of 70.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Bulkachuwa had sued the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the National Assembly clerk, the State Security Service, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the Nigeria Police Force as 1st to 5th defendants respectively.
The plaintiff asked the court to declare that he “is covered, privileged and protected by the parliamentary immunity as enshrined in Section 1 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017 and freedom of speech and expression made thereto is privileged.”
He also prayed the court to declare that without exhausting the internal disciplinary mechanism, recommendations and approval of the 9th House of Senate, no other law enforcement agent of the Federal Government, including the defendants can invite any member of the Senate for questioning/interview and or for any disciplinary purposes in relation to the plaintiff’s privileged inchoate expression/statement/speeches made on the floor of the Nigeria House of Senate at the valedictory session.”
Responding to Mr Bulkachuwa’s suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/895/2023, the clerk averred in a counter-affidavit that as of the time Mr Bulkachuwa made what he referred to as the inchoate statement, “he still enjoyed all the privileges and immunities of a legislator under the Nigerian laws”.
“That the congressional immunity recognised by the Senate Standing Orders 2022 (as amended) recognises the privileges granted to senators of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to exempt them from arrest or questioning for any speech or debate entered into during a legislative house,” the court document added.
The clerk, however, admitted that Mr Mr Bulkachuwa’s suit disclosed no cause of action against him (2nd defendant) to warrant the institution of the suit against him.
“That the plaintiff was not cut short and/or gaged by the 2nd defendant when he was making his valedictory speech while a sitting senator in the 9th National Assembly as the 2nd defendant was not presiding over plenary on that day,” he said.
Mr Ekwo adjourned the matter until 27 July for hearing.
NAN Bulkachuwa had, during a valedictory session of the 9th Assembly, disclosed that his wife, “accepted my encroachment, and extended her help to my colleagues.”
In the viral video clip on 12 June, he said his wife assisted his colleagues at the National Assembly.
“I look at faces in this chamber whom have come to me and sought for my help when my wife was the President of the Court of Appeal.
“And I must thank particularly, my wife, whose freedom and independence I encroached upon while she was in office, and she has been very tolerant and accepted my encroachment, and extended her help to my colleagues.
“I did my best and in most cases I succeeded,” Mr Bulkachuwa had said, while the then Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, tried interjecting him.
Mr Bulkachuwa later said his comment was taken out of context because the then Senate President, Mr Lawan, did not allow him to complete his thoughts.
In the wake of the outrage that trailed the revelation, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) called on the police and the ICPC to investigate Mr Bulkachuwa.
In line with its mandate to investigate corrupt practices, the ICPC commenced an investigation and invited the senator for questioning.
However, after receiving the ICPC invitation, Mr Bulkachuwa, through his lawyer, Donald Ajibowu, wrote to the agency to reschedule his appearance to 6 July.
He anchored his request on ill-health.
But three days before the rescheduled date, Mr Bulkachuwa filed a suit in the Federal High Court in Abuja, urging it to bar the ICPC from investigating him, PREMIUM TIMES was told.
He listed the Federation’s Attorney General, the National Assembly Clerk, the State Security Service (SSS), the ICPC, and Nigeria Police Force as defendants.
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