Embattled member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, on Thursday told an Abuja High Court that he was immune from civil prosecution for any action he took on the floor of the House while serving as the chairman of the ad-hoc committee that probed the management of fuel subsidy in the country.
He said this in a preliminary objection to N250bn suit filed against him by a businessman, Femi Otedola. He asked the court to dismiss the suit on the basis that the action over which he was dragged to court was taking in the course of his duty as chairman of the committee.
Lawan was removed as the chairman of the committee amid accusation by Otedola that he (Lawan) obtained $620,000 bribe from him in order to strike out the name of his company, Zenon Oil, from the list of indicted firms.
The Lawan-led committee had indicted some firms and individuals of shortchanging the subsidy regime to the tune of N1.7trn. It consequently recommended their prosecution by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Otedola had alleged intimidation by the House in the wake of his accusation against Lawan and consequently sued the lawmaker; the Speaker, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal; the Clerk of the National Assembly; and the National Assembly. He is asking the court to make the defendants pay him N250bn as damages for the loss of goodwill as a result of their actions in the course of the probe.
At the resumption of hearing in the case on Thursday,Lawan and Tambuwal argued that the court lacked the jurisdiction to try them.
In a preliminary objection filed by his counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju, Lawan asked the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that “Section 3 of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act Cap L 12 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” gives him absolute immunity from civil proceedings in respect of what he said on the floor of the House .
Lawan said the suit concerned actions he took on the floor of the House in his capacity as a member and that the subject matter of the suit has to do with the revenue of the country.