Nigeria: Why We Haven't Discussed Report On Lawmaker Caught On Video Assaulting Woman - Senate

13 December 2019

Two months after the Senate received the report of its ad-hoc committee that investigated an assault incident by Elisha Abbo (PDP, Adamawa North), it is yet to act on it.

The Senate spokesman, Godiya Akwashiki (APC, Nasarawa North), while fielding questions with journalists after plenary on Thursday, said this is because the case is in court.

He explained that because they are lawmakers, they are constrained from discussing some issues already in a court of law.

"I know vividly when that issue was brought to the plenary under matters of urgent importance, a senator raised an observation saying this issue is in a court of law. It's not an issue we should disturb ourselves for.

"Please I want to speak like a lawmaker. Once an issue is in a court of law, there is a limit for us to discuss it in the plenary."

While Mr Akwashiki rationalised the Senate's delay in debating the report, section 88 of the constitution which empowers the National Assembly to investigate allegations of misconduct against members gives no such restriction.

Investigation by the legislative arm, the section states, could be over the conduct of any "person, authority, or government body that has the duty of executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly."

Although such investigations cannot be aimed to punish, the section states that it shall only be either to "make laws with respect to any matter within its legislative competence and correct any defects in existing laws" or "expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence".

Also, when a similar argument as Mr Akwashiki's was tabled by the chairman of the ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the incident, Sam Egwu (PDP, Enugu North), the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, faulted it.

"We invited our colleague and he made it clear to us that he was invited by the police and the case is already in court and therefore, it is sub judice. So, we want to wait until the court has taken their decision," Mr Egwu had said after his committee couldn't met the initial deadline set to submit their report.

Having given the committee an additional week to conclude its work, Mr Lawan replied by saying the investigation by the House should be independent of other investigations since it is not a criminal case but one on misconduct.

"It is not our concern. We are not investigating criminal activities. We are investigating misconduct. The senate is not investigating what the police is investigating," Mr Lawan explained. "We can give you more time but we can't stop our activities because the matter is in court."

'Slapping senator'

On May 11, barely three months after Mr Abbo became a senator-elect and a month before he was sworn in on June 11, he was caught on camera assaulting a woman in a sex toy shop in Abuja.

Footage of the video seen by this newspaper showed the 41-year-old senator physically assaulting the woman, whom he accused of insulting him by calling him "a drunk". A policeman, who stood by did nothing to protect the victim.

Mr Abbo later owned up to his action by issuing an apology on the screen amidst tears.

He, thereafter, turned himself in to the police, who held him for a night, before granting him bail "after meeting a set of administrative conditions for his bound".

The Abuja police spokesperson did not give the specific terms of the bail.

The lawmaker was, thereafter, arraigned before the Chief Magistrate court, Zuba, Abuja, with two counts of criminal charges preferred against him.

He pleaded not guilty despite his public apology.

The court granted him bail of N5 million with two competent sureties.

Meanwhile, the Senate and Mr Abbo's party, the Peoples Democratic Party, also set up separate, fact-finding committees to look into the assault allegation.

The Senate set up an ad-hoc committee on July 3 to investigate the incident with the deadline of July 24 for the submission of its report tied to it. The deadline was, however, later extended by a week.

Spokesperson of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, did not return calls and messages sent to him to react on the matter.

The bipartisan committee set up had Sam Egwu (PDP, Ebonyi North) as Chairman. Other members are: Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central); Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North); Danladi Sankara (APC, Jigawa Northwest); Dauda Aliu Jika (APC, Bauchi Central); Sani Musa (APC, Niger East); and Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo South).

There was a mild altercation between the embattled senator and his colleagues when he appeared before the committee.

Thus far, the magistrate court before which Mr Abbo is being tried has admitted three documents tendered against him.

They include a discharge certificate and a medical report. Hearing on his case was thereafter adjourned till January 9, 2020.

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