Sagay to Senate: withdraw resolution summoning me, PACAC chair threatens to sue
Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Chairman Prof Itse Sagay (SAN) has asked the Senate to withdraw the resolution summoning him over his comments.
In an April 3 letter to Senate President Bukola Saraki, Sagay said he would sue if the invitation was not withdrawn.
The senators summoned Sagay before the Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions Committee for allegedly calling them “childish and irresponsible” for asking President Muhammadu Buhari to sack Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu.
The PACAC chairman said his criticism was anchored on Section 171(1) of the Constitution, which empowered the President to appoint any person to hold or act as head of any extra-ministerial department.
He said though he was not served with any summons, he deemed it fit to join issues with members of the Senate on the violation of his fundamental right to freedom of expression.
The rights, he said, were guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.
According to Sagay, Section 88 of the Constitution under which the Senate purportedly summoned him is subject to other provisions of the Constitution, including Section 39, which guarantees freedom of expression.
Sagay said the Senate’s power to conduct enquiries “is not at large”.
“The powers conferred on the National Assembly under the provision of this section (88) are exercisable only for the purpose of enabling it to – (a) make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws; and (b) expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
“From the foregoing, you will agree with me that the enormous investigative powers of the National Assembly are circumscribed as they are exercisable subject to other provisions of the Constitution,” Sagay said.
He cited the cases of Innocent Adikwu v. Federal House of Representatives ((1982) 3 NCLR 394 at 416),Senate of National Assembly v. Momoh ((1983) 4 NCLR 269 at 29), and Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai v. The House of Representatives, National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & Ors ((2003) 46 WRN 70), which he said show that the Senate’s powers to summon persons are not boundless.
“Applying the principle of law enunciated in the above cited cases, I am fortified in my submission that the Senate lacks the constitutional power to summon me to justify my condemnation of the illegal actions of its members. Senate cannot be accuser, prosecutor and judge in its own cause,” he said.
He threatened to sue the lawmakers should they fail to withdraw the summons, adding that any senator, who felt his reputation was damaged, could seek redress in court.
“However, any aggrieved member of the Senate has the liberty to sue me for defamation in a competent court of jurisdiction.
“Consequently, I urge you to withdraw the resolution summoning me to appear before the Senate.
“If you fail to accede to my request, I will not hesitate to challenge the legal validity of the summons, once it is served on me,” Sagay said.