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Onnoghen: Court dismisses suit challenging Justice Tanko Muhammad’s confirmation

Tanko Mohammed vs Onnoghen

A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit seeking to stop the confirmation of Justice Tanko Muhammad as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Justice Inyang Ekwo on Friday ruled that the plaintiff, the Board of Incorporated Trustees of Malcolm Omirhobo Foundation lacks the requisite locus standi to bring the suit, adding that it acted outside the purpose for its registration.

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Justice Ekwo held that Section 901 of Part C of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) provides that “Foundations” are established for charitable causes, which are listed in its objectives.

“Anything done or action taken outside its constitution, is ultra virus its powers,” he said.

However, following the court’s decision, counsel to the Foundation, Malcolm Omhirobo complained that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has sold the soul of the judiciary to the Executive by their recommendation for the confirmation of Justice Muhammad despite the pendency of the suit.

Sharing his opinion, Justice Ekwo said it has been the law that when parties are in court they do not take further action until the matter is determined, explaining that the country has degenerated in every sphere of life.

“That is not the fault of the judiciary,” he added.

Omirhobo had in May asked the court to determine whether by sections 1(1)(2), 231(4) (a) (i)(b), 153(1) and Paragraph 21(a)(b) Part I of the Third Schedule of the 1999 Constitution, the office of the CJN was vacant as at 25th January, 2019 when Justice Muhammad was sworn in as Acting CJN.

He asked the court to determine whether the provisions of the Constitution contemplate the removal of the CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, by ex parte order of court.

He therefore wants the court to make a declaration that, “the third defendant (Justice Muhammad) having conducted himself in a manner that casted doubt of confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary and having made himself as tool used in the violation of the Constitution of Nigeria is not a fit and proper person to be recommended by the 2nd defendant (FJSC) to the 1st defendant (NJC), and by the 1st defendant to the 5th defendant (the President) for appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

But the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Buhari and the AGF brought a preliminary objection through the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata contending that the Foundation is not a juristic person. It added that the lawyer did not disclose any cause of action or the locus standi to institute the case.

Also, counsel to the Acting CJN, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) described the suit as premature, speculative and academic. He said the suit constitutes and abuse of court process as the Foundation had filed two other similar matters before the Federal High Court.

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