President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), have asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to strike out all suits seeking the removal of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Ibrhim Magu, from office.
“This honorable court cannot invoke its judicial powers under Section 6(6)(b) (of the Constitution) to hear and determine this case,” the President and the AGF stated in a preliminary objection challenging the competence of a suit seeking Magu’s removal from office.
The AGF took the legal position backing Magu’s appointment despite the reported strained relationship between the minister and the acting EFCC chairman.
There are said to be pending 17 suits filed in support and against Magu’s appointment, following the refusal of the Senate to confirm the appointment of Magu as the substantive EFCC chairman on two different occasions.
One of the suits is said to be pending before the Yola Division of the Federal High Court, another in the Kano Division, while the rest are said to be pending before the Abuja Division of the court.
It was learnt that the President and the AGF took the same position in all of the suits seeking Magu’s removal from office.
Responding to one of the suits seeking Magu’s sacking, jointly initiated by two lawyers, Ahmed Yusuf and Peter Asa, on March 24, 2017, Malami filed a preliminary objection to the matter on behalf of himself and Buhari, who is the fourth respondent to the suit.
The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, leading Mr. Tijani Gazali and other lawyers in the ministry, signed the preliminary objection on behalf of the President and the AGF.
The suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/227/2017, has Magu, the EFCC; the AGF, President Buhari, the Senate, and its President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, as the first to the sixth defendants respectively.
In their response Buhari and the AGF contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit because, among other issues, the plaintiffs lacked the locus standi (legal right) to file the suit.
They added, “The plaintiffs do not have sufficient interest in the determination of this matter.
“The plaintiffs’ civil rights were not breached by the defendants.
“The plaintiffs did not meet the necessary pre-condition to file this suit.”
The two defendants, on whose behalf they filed the notice of preliminary objection, prayed for “an order of this honorable court striking out this matter for want of jurisdiction”.
They insisted that the plaintiffs lacked the right to institute the suit but were merely attempting to confer such rights on themselves when they were not instructed by the Senate to file the action.
The preliminary objection read in apart. “The plaintiffs claim to be concerned Nigerian citizens and legal practitioners, thus imparted upon themselves the right to institute this suit, notwithstanding the fact that the National Assembly (particularly the Senate) is a legal person capable of suing and being sued. The Plaintiffs did not depose to the fact that they were instructed by the Senate or the Senate President to institute this suit.
“The plaintiffs are seeking inter alia an order restraining the 4th defendant from re-nominating or representing the name of the 1st defendant (Magu) to the Senate for appointment as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.”
The two defendants maintained that the suit was wrongly instituted by the two plaintiffs and ought to be struck out.
They added, “My lord, we humbly submit that a perusal of all the processes in the court’s file will reveal that the plaintiffs instituted the action wrongly as they do not possess the locus standi to institute same.
“The plaintiffs have also failed to follow the due process of law in filing this suit and have not brought this action by way of Judicial Review contrary to Order 34 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules.
“This honorable court has therefore been deprived of the jurisdiction to hear and determine this suit.
“And if it is, your lordship has the power to, among other things, strike out this matter in its entirety. We urge your lordship to strike out this matter for want of jurisdiction.”
Prayers sought in the suit included, “A declaration that by the combined effect of the provisions of section 2(3) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004 and Order 131 of the Rules of the 5th and 6th defendants, the 4th defendant cannot validly reappoint/ re-present the name of the 15‘ Defendant to the 5th defendant for confirmation as the Chairman of the 2nd defendant having being previously rejected twice by the 5th and 6th defendants.
“A declaration that by re-nominating, re-presenting the name of the 1st defendant to the 5th and 6th defendants for confirmation as the Chairman of the 2nd defendant. having being previously rejected twice by the 5th and 6th defendant, the 4th defendant is foisting a candidate upon Nigerians.”