By Ameh Ejekwonyilo
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, has threatened to exclude the House of Representatives from a N50 billion legal tussle instituted by a nongovernmental organisation, the registered Trustee of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
In the suit filed last February, the plaintiff (SERAP) named the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila and the entire members of the lower chamber and the National Assembly as 1st and 2nd respondents, respectively.
SERAP is asking the court to determine, “Whether the proposed plan and resolution by members of the House of Representatives to order, buy and procure 400 units of Toyota Camry 2020 cars for members of the House of Representatives at the estimated cost of $35,130200 per car (amounting to over Fifty Billion Naira in total] is not in breach of Section 57(4) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, Paragraph 1 of Code of Conduct for Public Officers (Fifth Schedule Part 1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Oath of office (Seventh Schedule) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
At Monday’s proceedings, counsel to the plaintiff, Mr. Opeyemi Owolabi, urged the court to foreclose the defendants following their refusal to appear in the matter despite the fact that they had been served with necessary court processes.
“My Lord, for three times now, the court has sat on this matter and the defendants have been duly served with the necessary court processes, yet they have refused and neglected to appear in the matter. I, therefore, urge this honourable court to foreclose the defendants,” Owolabi said.
However, in his response to the plaintiff’s application, Justice Ekwo said, “The plaintiffs will still have one more opportunity to appear in the suit. If they fail to do so at the next sitting, the court will have no choice but to foreclose them.”
Subsequently, the court ordered that hearing notices be served on the defendants and adjourned the case till November 27, 2020, for hearing.
In the suit, SERAP is urging the court to make an order, “restraining, preventing and stopping the National Assembly Service Commission or such other person or group of persons from paying out or releasing or continuously releasing the sum of $35,130200 or such other sum per car for purchase of 400 Toyota Camry 2020 model cars for members of the House of Representatives until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, security, health, clean water and safe roads is carried out in the public interest in accordance with their constitutional oaths of office and constitutional provisions.