The speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Thursday warned the Nigerian judiciary over what he described as its infringement on the powers of the legislature.
Dogara threatened that the House would part ways with the judiciary if it continues to ‘gag’ the National Assembly, further alleging that there were “external forces” pushing the judiciary to tackle the legislature.
“Some persons somewhere are intimidating the nation’s judiciary to gag the National Assembly,” he said without elaborating.
Dogara was speaking on a motion raised by Razak Atunwa (Kwara – APC) on the recent court judgement restraining the house from holding public hearing on the hijab controversy.
There has been controversy between the Nigerian Law School and Amasa Firdaus, a law graduate, who was not called to bar on the grounds that she wore a hijab to the call to bar ceremony.
The matter was taken to the house of representatives and a public hearing was fixed for it.
A coalition of lawyers, however, filed a suit asking the federal high court in Abuja to stop the house from conducting the hearing, a prayer the court granted.
Dogara accused the judiciary of “crossing the line” regarding its constitutional role, stressing the court had cultivated a habit of infringing on the powers of the house and ”this will not be tolerated”.
“We know that Nigeria is not Banana Republic and operates on basic principles such as rule of law and separation of powers, which states that none of the arms of government should gag the other.
“Just as we cannot gag the judiciary, we also expect same from them. We make laws and the constitution only empowers them to interprete the laws.
“But for us to sit here and the judiciary tells us what we should consider and not consider and when to seat, then we are no longer practising democracy.”
He said with the way ”the judiciary is going, nothing stops them (the judges) from coming tomorrow and saying the national assembly should not sit”.
“I don’t think it is us that is intimidating the judiciary like is being alleged. It is some people that are intimidating them from somewhere else, to gag the National Assembly,” he said.
“We have respected the judiciary a lot and we expect same from them. When the judiciary gets to the level they are now, that spells danger for our democracy. If they insist they must continue this way, we have to path ways.”
Also contributing, Alhassan Doguwa, the chief whip of the house, also called on the lawmakers to “individually and collectively defend the integrity of the legislature” on the matter.
“The sovereignty of every nation lies in the people and we are the representatives of the people,” he said, adding: “If we don’t do the needful now that we are going into election, before you know it, out democracy will be in shambles.
“This house will not take this recklessness and nonsense from the judiciary because we are protected by the Constitution.”
The House set up an ad-hoc committee led by the house leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, to interface with the judiciary over the matter.
Recently, the Federal High Court, Abuja, had asked the National Assembly to stay action on another Bill seeking to amend the Electoral Act which President Muhammadu Buhari refused to sign into law because according to him, it violates aspects of the Constitution.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed made the order while delivering ruling in an application filed by the Accord Party through its counsel, Wole Olanipekun, asking for a preservative order on the matter.
The National Assembly however disregarded the order and has gone ahead with the process, which some lawmakers say targets the president’s chances at the 2019 polls.