Nigeria Court declines to nullify confab report

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ABUJA -The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, refused to void the outcome of the National Conference that was held in Abuja last year.

The conference which was took place at the National Judicial Institute, NJI, in Abuja, was inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on March 17.

It ended on August 14, 2014, after the participants, consisting of about 492 delegates that represented a cross-section of Nigerians, including professional bodies, produced and submitted a draft final report‎ that was drawn from reports of 20 committees that were set up during the conference.

However, a constitutional lawyer, Dr. Tunji Abayomi went to court to challenge the constitutionality of the conference which he said was not properly convened as stipulated by the law.

The plaintiff, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 167/204 and dated 3 March, 2014, maintained that President Jonathan lacked the constitutional power to convoke or convene a National Conference without the express backing of a law ratified by the National Assembly.

Joined as defendants in the suit were the Attorney-General of the Federation, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Abayomi specifically prayed the court to determine whether a National Conference can be convened by the President and/or government of Nigeria without a law made by the National Assembly enabling them to do so.

Though the suit was entered even before the conference began, however, following the decision of the f‎ederal government to proceed with it despite the pendency of the suit, the plaintiff, on March 18, withdrew his interlocutory motion to stop the confab, even as he urged the court to go ahead and determine its legality.

He further persuaded the court to join the Chairman of the conference and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Legbo ‎Kutigi, the Vice Chairman, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi and the Secretary, Mrs Valerie Azinge as defendants in the suit on the ground that they were necessary parties.

His application to include them in the matter was not opposed by the defendants’ lawyer, Mr. Femi Fulani, SAN, who was also a participant at the conference.

The defendants however raised preliminary ‎objections against the suit which they said was grossly bereft of merit.

They further queried the locus-standi of the plaint‎iff to institute the action, even as they prayed the court to dismiss it.

‎‎While dismissing the suit yesterday, Justice Abdul Kafarati, agreed with the defendants, describing the suit as “a mere academic exercise”.

The court noted that the plaintiff failed to show how his personal rights were infringed upon.

It however refused to award any cost against the plaintiff.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff yesterday vowed to go on appeal.

In an affidavit in support of theg suit, which was deposed to by one Mr. Patrick Bisong, the plaintiff, alleged before the court that the federal government spent billions of public money to fund the conference despite the absence of any law enabling the President to convoke it, and notwithstanding the limited power invested in the President to use money to execute law or any legally authorized national idea.

He had initially prayed the court to restrain the government from going ahead with the conference, noting that if the defendants were not restrained, billions of tax payers money would be spent unconstitutionally by the government under the guise of organizing a national conference.

Besides, the plaintiff told the court that the President was working with deliberate speed to convene the conference, a move he said ought to be subjected to an intense judicial scrutiny.

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