Justice Iyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court struck out the suit brought by a plaintiff, Omirhobo Foundation, for lack of locus standi to prosecute the case.
While upholding the preliminary objection filed by the defendants in the suit, the court held that the aims and objectives of the group does not permit it to engage in the “public interest litigation” which it claimed to be undertaking by filing the action.
Justice Ekwo further held that contrary to the claim of the plaintiff to be a Non-Government Organisation, there was no legislation in Nigeria permitting the registration of any group as such.
The Judge also held that no group registered under the Part C of the Company and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), like the plaintiff, could engage in such litigation, calling on the National Assembly to emulate some Commonwealth countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe with separate legislation on registration of NGO.
It was the findings of the court that no object of MOM2 (object of registration) authorises the plaintiff to engage itself in what it called public interest litigation allowing it to institute this kind of action,” he ruled.
“A body is bound strictly by its object of registration,” the court added.
He also held that while the plaintiff was registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission as Malcom Omirhobo Foundation but chose to institute the action in the name of ‘Board of Trustees of Malcom Omirhobo Foundation
He held that the implication was that it was not the registered body that instituted the case.
He struck the suit on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked locus standi to file the action, as it lacked the legal authority to do so.
After the conclusion of the judgment the plaintiff’s lawyer, Malcom Omirhobo, the promoter of the group, accused the National Judicial Council of acting on rascality by recommending the Justice Muhammad to President Muhammadu Buhari for confirmation while the case was still pending in court.
The President had subsequently on Thursday nominated the Acting CJN to the Senate for confirmation in substantive capacity.
Expressing his displeasure about the developments on Friday, said, “This is rascality. The NJC has sold the soul of the judiciary.”
In it’s originating summons, the plaintiff in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/420/2019, contended that with the role played by Muhammad in the alleged illegal removal of Onnoghen, Muhammad who is currently the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, is unfit to replace the sacked CJN.
He contended that the Acting CJN conducted himself in a manner that reduced the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
The plaintiff stated that the acting CJN “is therefore not a proper and fit person to be recommended for appointment to head the judiciary.”
The plaintiff, among other things, urged the court to declare that the suspension and/or removal of a CJN from office, is a shared responsibility of the 1st defendant (NJC), 5th defendant (Buhari) and 7th Defendant (National Assembly).
He argued that President Buhari lacked the constitutional powers to unilaterally suspend and/or remove a sitting CJN from office, as was done in the case of Onnoghen.
The 1st to the 7th defendants were the NJC, the Federal Judicial Service Commission, the Acting CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad; the Federal Government of Nigeria, President Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the National Assembly.