Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday dismissed a N8.1 billion suit filed by Major General Abdulrauf Tijani (retd) against the Government of Lagos State and six others over the alleged unlawful seizure of his expanse of land in Lagos State.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in his judgment, dismissed the suit on the ground that it constituted a gross abuse of court process and for also being defective in nature and contents.
Reacting to the judgment, the plaintiff, said he would challenge it at the Court of Appeal.
Justice Ekwo held that the case of the plaintiff ran foul of section 63 of the Federal High Court Act, having been instituted against a serving judge of the court in the discharge of his judicial duties.
The judge held that immunity granted a serving judge in the course of judicial function was not ambiguous adding when such Judge erred, the appropriate place for remedy was not a law court.
General Tijjani had sued the Lagos State Government, the National Judicial Council (NJC), the Federal High Court, Justice Ayokunle Faji and other respondents to court, challenging the alleged injustice perpetrated against him by State officials and the serving judge of the Federal High Court.
The other respondents include, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Justice AO Faji of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, former Lagos State Attorney General, Abdulraheem Ade Ipaye, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Mr Kasheem Adeniji, Lagos State Government and the Governor of Lagos State.
The plaintiff specifically challenged the alleged sabotage of the execution of a court judgment which returned his landed property in Lagos State to him.
In arguing his case, the retired army general urged the court to intervene in the matter because a judgment entered in his favour has been criminally sabotaged allegedly by the Lagos authorities in connivance with the Federal High Court judge.
General Tijjani, although not a lawyer argued his case himself and prayed the court to look into the justice of his case, adding that what was before him was criminal in nature and not ordinary misconduct of a judge.
He alleged that after a federal high court in Lagos entered judgment in his favour in his suit challenging the unlawful seizure of his property by the Lagos authority, the judge in connivance with the then Lagos AG took the case file to a Lagos State High Court which he accused of now sitting as an Appeal Court over the Federal High Court’s judgment.
He urged he court to assume jurisdiction because both the leadership of the NJC and the Federal High Court are based in Abuja.
In his fundamental human rights suit, he prayed Justice Ekwo to order Lagos State Government and the Governor to pay him a cumulative compensation of N8 billion as damages for alleged injustice suffered in the hands of Lagos officials.
In the suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/690/2020, the plaintiff also asked the judge to compel the National Judicial Council (NJC) to pay him another sum of N100 million for alleged misconduct of Justice A. O. Faji during the hearing of his matter.
In addition, he asked the court for an order for the trial of Justice Faji for allegedly perverting the course of justice in his case.
Besides, General Tijjani prayed the court to compel the Chief Justice of Nigeria to remove the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) on Mr Kasheem Adeniji and further de-bar him for alleged act of misconduct.
In a 19 paragraph affidavit in support of the suit, he averred that a former Attorney-General of Lagos State, Abdulraheem Ade Ipaye now Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, allegedly conveted his landed properties in Shasha-Akowonjo Area in Alimosho Local Government of Lagos State to his personal gain.
He said as a result he approached a federal high court and had gotten judgment in his favour on January 31, 2014.
The plaintiff, however, said that the judgment could not be executed because of the alleged sabotage on the part of Lagos State officials.
The plaintiff claimed that his case got worse when his personal lawyer, Mr Kasheem Adeniji, SAN, was appointed Attorney-General of Lagos State and subsequently became an interested party in the matter.
He further argued that, following the appointment of Adeniji as Lagos AG, he disengaged with his law firm, adding that the AG turned against him by frustrating his case.
However, respondents in the suit, except 3rd (NBA) and 6th (Adeniji) all urged the court to dismiss the suit for lacking merit and being largely defective.
Although Dr Christopher Eichie, had announced appearance for the NBA, he informed the court that his client filed nothing as it was not in anyway involved in the allegations made by the plaintiff.
The sixth respondent did not appear in court or represented by a counsel since the beginning of hearing on July 10, even after alleged service of court processes.
In their individual responses, however, Mr Usman Suleiman, SAN, Mr Innocent Da’agba, Mr Muyiwa Akingboro, SAN, and Mr Jibrin Okutepa, SAN, counsel to 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th, 7th, 8th respondents, respectively, urged the court to dismiss the suit for being vague, contrary to the rules of fundamental rights suits and lack of jurisdiction.
While Suleiman noted that the plaintiff did not present any document showing how his rights were breached by the 1st defendant, he argued that the plaintiff ought to know where to go to if he has complaint against any judicial officer.
Da’agba, on his part, argued that the Federal High Court cannot sit in judgment over itself, just as Akinboro noted that the suit was statute barred because the alleged act occurred in 2018 whereas the suit was filed in 2020.
Okutepa, in his submissions for the 5th, 7th and 8th respondents, described the suit as an abuse of court process as it failed to show any cause of action.
Justice Ekwo agreed with respondents that the suit was an abuse of court process and subsequently dismissed it.