12 May 2003

Nigeria: ICPC Act: Anyim Threatens Judge's Arrest

Lagos — The Senate President, Anyim Pius Anyim, has warned the Abuja High Court judge, Justice Egbo Egbo, that the parliament has the power to order his arrest over his opposition to the passage of the anti-graft law by the Senate.

Anyim, who spoke on the heels of the statement credited to Justice Egbo who described the passage of the Bill by the legislature as illegal, warned that given the principles of separation of powers, the judge does not have any power to interfere with the internal affairs of the parliament.

Speaking to newsmen in Lagos at the weekend, Anyim said: "I just want you to know that the parliament also has the power to order the arrest of the judge, so let him issue his order and we will also issue our own order, since he does not know what to do let him know that we can adopt a resolution to order his arrest."

Anyim further said that the actions of the judge are tantamount to that of one who has lost direction, and is thinking that the parliament does not have power to arrest him.

On the rift between the executive and legislative arms of government, Anyim advised the executive to distance itself from the internal affairs of the National Assembly, and listen to the advice of Nigerians for the way to move forward.

"If the meddling is not stopped, we cannot move forward," he warned.

Justice Egbo had last week threatened to order the arrest of both Senate President Pius Anyim and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na'Abba, for disregarding the court's order which stopped further action on the amendment of the ICPC Act.

"I am not happy with the way the leadership of the National Assembly is treating the court's order.

"We can order the Senate President to appear before us, and he is bound to obey the order. They in the National Assembly have their duties as we in the judiciary," Justice Egbo was quoted to have said.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives had different sessions last week voted by two thirds majority to override President Obasanjo's veto of the Bill sent to him over two months ago.

Following this, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Kanu Agabi retorted, saying the federal government will disregard the law.

Reacting to Agabi's statement, Senate spokesman, Senator Jonathan Zwingina, said the federal government is duty bound to implement the law as passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly.

Zwingina insisted last week, that the Act is a legitimate law, adding that government had a right to challenge the mode of passage in court.

He advised the federal government to head to the Supreme Court, citing the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Kaduna State House of Assembly vs Balarabe Musa over his impeachment by the Assembly in 1981.

In the said judgment, the Supreme Court held that a court cannot stop a parliament from discharging its constitutional duties.

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