by Akan Ido
Farouk Lawan, former House of Representatives ad-hoc committee chairman on fuel subsidy probe committee, yesterday told an Abuja High Court that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed against him and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, by Zenon Petroleum boss, Femi Otedola.
Otedola alongside his company, Zenon, had filed a suit seeking the sum of N150 billion against Lawan and Tambuwal as exemplary damages for alleged oppressive and arbitrary actions he claimed was meted against him.
He is further seeking N100 billion as general damages for acts of intimidation, loss of goodwill, and patronages occasioned by the acts of the speaker of the House of Representatives and Lawan.
Lawan, represented by his counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, asked the court to strike out the suit and also dismiss it on the grounds that “Section 3 of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act Cap L12 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives him immunity from civil proceedings in respect of what he says or does on the floor of the House.”
Ogunwumiju, in his argument in support of the preliminary objection, told the court that Section 251 (1) of the 1999 Constitution absolved the court of the power to hear and determine the suit, adding also that the suit of Otedola and his company against him was premature.
On his part, Mike Ahamba, counsel to Aminu Tambuwal asked the court to strike out the name of the speaker, because his person and office was not involved in the complaint of the plaintiffs.
He further argued that the case was not properly constituted, because Tambuwal was not a necessary party and his presence was not necessary, having not being named in the bribery allegation.
Babajide Koku, counsel to the plaintiff, however argued against their submission saying both defendants are being sued in their personal capacity for intimidating Otedola into parting with $620,000 out of $3 million bribe allegedly demanded and collected by Farouk.
He reportedly urged the court to make the defendants defend themselves according to the dictates of the law.
The trial judge, Justice Peter Kekemeke, later adjourned till January 30.