The suspended House of Representatives committee on Appropriations chairman has found a supporter in the Green chambers who is speaking out against the suspension meted out to him.
The Majority Leader of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, has faulted the suspension of Abdulmumin Jibrin, for one year, describing it as unconstitutional.
It would be recalled that Jibrin, who had accused the House leadership of padding the 2016 federal budget amongst other things, was suspended on September 28 after failing to appear before the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges.
But Gbajabiamila in an interview with Thisday, said it was wrong to have suspended a lawmaker who represents a constituency.
According to him, the suspension of a lawmaker means the constituency he is representing has been suspended from taking part in the activities at the National Assembly.
Gbajabiamila said: “My concern on the suspension, is the same that I always had, even when Dino Melaye and others, were suspended in the 6th Assembly. More so, as this was a one year suspension.
“Now what is this concern? I find it difficult as a constitutional lawyer to accept that our rules can actually pass constitutional muster, if put to test. If you suspend a member for a year, you are effectively suspending his constituency and the people he represents, from participation in participatory democracy. This, in my own personal opinion, violates the constitution which delineates the country into Federal Constituencies for effective representation, at the centre. For every constituency, it is a right to be represented in the national assembly, not a privilege that can be taken away.
“The constitution says clearly that all Federal Constituencies must be represented for 4 years, and I believe there are only 1 or 2 circumstances under which such a constituency can be unrepresented. e.g. by process of recall etc. Even at that, the vacancy is to be filled immediately. Our constitution does not envisage a situation where a Federal Constituency is unrepresented or underrepresented.
“If, for instance, an issue comes up in a member’s constituency, that requires federal attention or legislative address, who do they go to? We cannot take away a mandate given by the people or short change a constituency.
“In law, the seat of a representative is held in trust for the constituency. It is an in rem matter, not a personam matter. This is why when a member gets up to speak, he goes through the formality of announcing his name and the constituency he represents. In fact, in other democracies and Legislatures, when a Speaker wants to recognise a Representative to speak, he addresses him or her not even by name, but as for instance, “the gentleman from so so constituency”.
“That is the pre-eminence given to a constituency in a democratic setting. So it is not about Honourable Jibrin, it is about Beweji Constituency. I do not stand in the gap for Jibrin, or is this in any way a defence on his behalf. You may not know this, but Jibrin and I stopped relating as friends and colleagues, since March or thereabout. However, I am not one to shy away from the truth and the rule of law.
“I believe that there are other ways that would be constitutional, if the House wants to discipline any member”, Gbajabiamila said.
By Timothy Enietan-Matthews….
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