A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Bwari has voided the charge brought against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila by a political party, the African Peoples Party(APP) and one other before the Grade 1 Area Court, Karishi, Abuja.
The applicants – APP and Anas Isa Mohammed – had claimed that Gbajabiamila lied on oath while filing Form CF001 issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the last general elections, by stating that he was never convicted for any crime.
The Area Court subsequently summoned Gbajabiamila based on the claimed by the applicants, a decision the House of Reps Speaker challenged before the High Court of the FCT, via an application for judicial review, for an order of certiorari, brought pursuant to section 12 of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja Area Courts Act, 2010, Order 44 Rule (A) and (2) of the High Court of the FCT Rules 2018.
Based on Gbajabiamila’s application, Justice Othman Musa of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Bwari ordered a stay of the order by the Area Court and the transfer of all previous proceedinsg in the case to his court for review.
In a judgment on Wednesday, Justice Musa quashed all the proceedings before the Area Court in Karshi, including the charge on the grounds that the Area Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain and determine the matter.
“The lower court acted recklessly in a matter it has no jurisdiction to do so,” Justice Musa held.In the suit marked: FCT/HC/BW/M/267/19, the judge further held that the allegation of disciplinary proceedings levelled against Mr. Gbajabiamila does not amount to a criminal conviction by a court of law.Consequently, the court declared the proceedings and decisions of the Grade 1 Area Court of May 30, 2019, are a “unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void.”
While delivering the verdict, Justice said if a false information was given by Gbajabiamila in the course of filing out his INEC Form CF001 as alleged by the respondents, a criminal charge ought to have been filed against the Speaker at either the Federal High Court or the FCT High Court as prescribed by the Electoral Act as amended.
“The 1st respondent (APP) is not a legal officer of INEC. Criminal matters are only enforceable by a law enforcement agency. I so hold,” the judge said.
Citing the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Amaechi Versus INEC 2008, Justice Musa averred that an indictment by a mere disciplinary committee or commission that is not a court of law recognised by the constitution does not amount to a criminal conviction.
“The order of 26 February, 2007 of the State Bar of Georgia, United States of America against Hon Gbajabiamila does not amount to a criminal offence known by any Nigerian law.
“I therefore, hold the view that the direct criminal complaint against Gbajabiamila was misconceived.
“Having dutifully combed through all the facts and the laws that have been presented before the court, and having soberly reflected on the robust arguments of counsel in the matter, I am satisfied that the reliefs of the application (Gbajabiamila) are granted.
“Consequently, an order is hereby made nullifying the entire proceedings of the Grade 1 Area Court, Karishi, Abuja. The charges in suit no: CR/349/2019 and Motion No: M/19/2019 between African Peoples Party (APP) Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila are hereby quashed,” Justice Musa said.