Court strikes out former Ondo deputy governor’s suit
A Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday struck out a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by a former Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, to challenge his impeachment. Justice Mohammed Idris, in a judgment held that Olanusi’s suit was an abuse of court processes, noting that the reliefs he had sought were same as those in an earlier suit marked Ak/51/2015 still pending before an Ondo State High Court in Akure. “The issues of the fundamental rights of the applicant were raised in that suit as in this suit.
This cannot be allowed. The institution of the first action between the main parties or even similar parties on same subject matter simultaneously when the previous suit has not been disposed off constitutes an abuse of court processes. “I therefore hold that this suit is filed in abuse of court processes in the light of suit numbered AK/51/2015,” Idris held.
The judge also held that he had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit and went on to fault the joining of the Inspector General of Police as a defendant, who, he said, played no role in Olanusi’s impeachment. Idris upheld the submission by the Attorney General of Ondo State, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), who represented the first respondent in the suit. Jegede had argued: “It is clear that the applicant merely joined the Inspector General of Police as a subterfuge to justify bringing this application before this court in an obvious situation of lack of jurisdiction. The mere making the Inspector General of Police as a respondent against all grains cannot salvage the situation.”
Idris, however, rejected Jegede’s position that Olanusi filed his suit in breach of Order X Rule 1 of the fundamental rights enforcement procedure 2009.
Olanusi, who was impeached on April 27, 2015, had sued the IG and the chairman of the seven-man investigative panel which found him guilty of impeachable offences, Mr. Olatunji Adeniyan. In his suit, Olanusi contended that the Adeniyan-led panel breached his fundamental right to fair hearing. His counsel, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, claimed that “the sitting, conclusion of proceedings and submission of report by the panel within one day” denied Olanusi his right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution.
Olanusi claimed that the impeachment panel did not give him adequate time and facility to defend himself against the allegations of misconduct which he was found guilty of. He also alleged that the Adeniyan-led panel failed to personally serve him with the notice of the allegation of misconduct before proceeding into hearing and reaching its verdict.
He therefore sought an order quashing the proceedings and the report of the Adeniyan-led seven-man impeachment panel, which recommended him for impeachment.
He also sought an order nullifying his removal as the Ondo State Deputy Governor by the state House of Assembly on April 27, 2015. But Adeniyan, Jegede, filed a notice of preliminary objection, urging the court to discountenance Olanusi’s prayers and strike out his suit. Jegede, who described Olanusi’s suit as an abuse of court processes, said the ex-deputy governor goofed by approaching the court through a fundamental right enforcement application to challenge his impeachment.
He explained that Olanusi’s application was not filed in compliance with Order X Rule 1 of the fundamental rights enforcement procedure 2009, adding that the suit was defective and urged the court to strike it out. He also challenged the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case, arguing that the subject matter was not one over which the Federal High Court could assume jurisdiction.
Jegede went on to also challenge the joining of the Inspector General of Police as a respondent in the suit, saying the IG played no role in Olanusi’s impeachment to warrant his being sued, adding that his joining was a mere ploy to make the suit appear like a fundamental right enforcement action. “In the case at hand, the Inspector General of Police is neither the principal respondent nor the only respondent.
None of the reliefs set out in the originating process is against the Inspector General of Police; the Inspector General of Police did not play any role in the removal of the applicant, neither did he sit as a member of the seven-member panel,” Jegede argued. Idris also upheld Adeniyan’s preliminary objection and struck out that of Olanusi.