Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said that the Nigerian senate has no power to summon the Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal, Justice Danladi Umar, before its Ethics Committee, adding that “the Senate can’t arrogate to itself the power to summon judges without violating constitutional safeguards.”
The group, in a statement signed by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni therefore called on the senate leadership to immediately withdraw the unconstitutional summon.
According to the group the summon represents a direct assault upon the principle of judicial independence as it undermines the constitutional principle of separation of powers and guarantee of a judicial system that is free from outside influence of whatever kind and from whatever source.
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The statement read in part: “The constitutional power of the Senate can only be validly exercised if it’s intended to be in aid of the function of law-making itself. There is clearly no suggestion of contemplated legislation in this case. The Senate not only has exceeded the limit of its own authority, but assumed a power which could only be properly exercised by another branch of the government. We therefore advise Justice Umar to ignore its invitation as it is of no legal effect whatsoever.
“While the Senate is empowered under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to conduct an inquiry for the purpose of enabling it to among others make laws, correct any defects in existing laws, expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence, it doesn’t possess the power to get involved in alleged criminal matter. The Senate is in no sense a court, police or anticorruption agency, and for it to attempt to act as one, would bring about insurmountable legal and political problems.”