Adamu Bulkachuwa, a former senator, says the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) lacks the powers to investigate him over comments he made during the valedictory session of the ninth national assembly. Speaking at the senate valedictory session, the former senator said he often “encroached on” his wife’s space while she was in office.
But Ahmad Lawan, the former senate president who presided over the session, interrupted the senator before he spoke any further. Zainab, a former president of the court of appeal, was the first female to hold the position. She presided over the 2007 Sokoto state governorship election petition tribunal and the suit in which Timipre Sylva, former governor of Bayelsa, challenged the nomination of Seriake Dickson, an ex-governor of the state, as the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Bulkachuwa’s comments sparked outrage, with many Nigerians calling for investigations into his claim. However, the former appeal court president denied Bulkachuwa’s claim, saying she never compromised her office on partisan grounds. Owing to the development, TheCable understands that the ICPC has commenced an investigation and invited the former senator for questioning. Bulkachuwa was scheduled to appear at the ICPC office on July 6 but he filed a suit to stop the invitation before the date.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/895/2023, Bulkachuwa argued that he was protected by constitutional impunity as a senator when he made the comment, which he said, was misinterpreted. In his supporting affidavit, he explained that as a serving senator, he was, by law, immune to arrest or detention over any conduct, action or speech he made on the floor of the senate. He said he was neither questioned nor disciplined by the senate for any wrongdoing. He argued that by law, it was only the senate in session or any of its sub-committees that had the disciplinary power to invite him to answer any question or questions relating to his conduct or utterances on the floor of the upper chamber.
“The national assembly is an independent arm of government with its own regulatory power and every senator, including the plaintiff, has the parliamentary immunity to boldly express themselves on the floor of the senate without any fear of sanctions from the executive arm of government, for and on behalf of their constituents,” Bulkachuwa submitted. “Hence, the immunity conferred on members to allow or grant lawmakers the freedom of speech they required and confidence why on the floor of the senate.” Bulkachuwa alleged that the defendants, particularly the ICPC, had joined his political opponents “to adopt and propagate the unintended inference from the said inchoate valedictory speech made on the floor of the senate.” “The defendants, particularly the ICPC or any other law enforcement agency of the federal republic of Nigeria do not have the powers to invite/discipline me (as serving member of the senate at the time of my utterance in reference) questioning/interview on any matter that occurred on the floor of the house of senate without the prior approval of the senate committee saddled with the investigating the actions of a member. “No civil or criminal proceedings can lie against a serving member of the senate on account of the speech/utterances made on the floor of the senate unless and until the senate exhausts its disciplinary powers over such a member.”
At the court hearing on Thursday, Donald Ayibiowu, counsel to Bulkachuwa prayed the court to grant all the reliefs sought in the suit. However, Oyin Koleoso, lawyer to the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), faulted the plaintiff’s argument, contending that he no longer had any immunity from arrest and prosecution because he is no more a senator. Koleoso urged the court to dismiss the suit. I. A. Aderounmu, who appeared for the Department of State Services (DSS) and U. M. Narimir, ICPC lawyer, also prayed the court to dismiss the case. Inyang Ekwo, presiding judge adjourned the matter to October 25 for judgment.