AN AD-HOC committee set up by the Senate to investigate the allegation of physical assault against Elisha Abbo, the lawmaker representing Adamawa North district, has said it would rather hold on till the court rules on the matter. But its request was rejected.
The bipartisan committee was set up on July 3 and was given two weeks to report back to the Red Chamber.
The committee chairman, Sam Egwu, however, said on Wednesday that the group needs more time to present its findings. He explained that the committee could not carry out its duty effectively as the parties invited, including Abbo, the Commissioner of Police, and victim’s lawyer refused to provide details because the matter is pending in court.
“We set out to do the investigation and in the course of that, we invited all the people that are involved,” he told the House.
“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.”
Egwu added that, because it is already before a court, “we want to wait until the court has taken their decision”.
Senate President Ahmed Lawan rejected this request and gave the committee an additional week to conclude its work.
“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,” Lawan explained. “We can give you more time but we can’t stop our activities because the matter is in court.”
On July, Premium Times published a security camera footage that showed the Adamawa senator repeatedly slapping a woman at an adult toys store in Abuja. The event was said to have taken place in May, three months after the general election which he won as a senatorial candidate and a month to his swearing-in.
A report by The ICIR has also shed light on allegations of domestic violence and deliberate HIV infection of his former wife, Uche Eucharia Ojukwu, said to have led to her death in 2013.
Abbo was arraigned on July 8 at the Chief Magistrate Court in Zuba with two counts preferred against him. He pleaded not guilty and was granted bail, despite “profoundly apologising” on live television “with a deep sense of remorse and responsibility”.
On Tuesday, July 9, the lawmaker attended a sitting of the Senate ad-hoc committee where he refused to be questioned in the presence of journalists, with the explanation that the matter was in court.
Checks by The ICIR showed that the constitution empowers the National Assembly to investigate allegations of misconduct and it appears the law does not make an exception of cases under review by a court.
“Each House of the National Assembly shall have power by resolution published in its journal or in the Official Gazette of the Government of the Federation to direct or cause to be directed investigation into any matter or thing with respect to which it has power to make laws,” Section 88 states.
It further extends this power of investigation over the conduct of any person, authority, or government body that has the duty of executing or administering laws enacted by the National Assembly.
But such investigations cannot be conducted with the aim of meting out punishment. The purpose 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”.
The law provides that the House, in exercising its power, can procure all evidence and examine all witnesses relevant to the case. The House may also issue warrants to compel the attendance of witnesses and impose fines where there is a default.