The Federal High Court Abuja Division on Thursday struck out a legal action instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari and five others to challenge the October 8, 2016, arrest and detention of two Supreme Court Justices and four others by the operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS).
Others sued along with President Buhari on the issue are, Director General of DSS, DSS, Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Inspector General of Police (IGP) and National Judicial Council (NJC).
Plaintiff in the suit who is an Abuja based legal practitioner and Human right activities, Olukoya Ogungbeje had dragged Buhari and five others before the court, challenging the legality of the arrest and detention of the judicial officers as well as confiscation of their properties including monies.
He prayed the court to declare the arrest and detention as unlawful, illegal and a breach of the fundamental rights of the judicial officers and also asked the court to award a whopping sum of N50BN in favour of the judges for the humiliation they suffered as a result of the arrest. Besides, the plaintiff urged the court for an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants, their agents and privies from further arresting, intimidating, harassing, inviting, humiliating, detaining, forceful invasion of the residential houses or disturbing the judicial officers in any unlawful manners.
However, the president and the AGF, filed a preliminary objection, challenging the (locus standi) right of the plaintiff to institute the court action without the consent of the affected judicial officers. The two defendants in the objection raised by their counsel, Habiba Chime, urged the court to strike out the plaintiff’s suit on the grounds that he did not disclose what he personally suffered by way of injury on the issue that brought about his suit. Also, they told the court that the plaintiff’s action is malicious, frivolous, vexatious, lacking in merit and constituted and abuse of the civil process of the court. Similar objection was also raised by the DSS and its DG, who also argued that the plaintiff lacked legal capacity to institute the case and urged the court to strike out the case with substantial cost.
In the judgment prepared by Justice Gabriel Kolawole before he was elevated to Court of Appeal bench that was delivered by Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, the court agreed with the defendants that the plaintiff lacked locus standi to institute the court action on behalf of the judicial officers without their consent. Justice Kolawole said that the plaintiff was unable to persuade him that he has the locus standi to fight the battle of the affected judges, who are still alive and have no disability to approach the court to enforce their rights which the conduct of the DSS and its DG had breached by their arrest, detention and confiscation of their properties.
The judge however disagreed that the plaintiff was a busy bodied but a legal practitioner who is generally concerned as the entire of lawyers under the aegis of the Nigerian Bar Association had expressed its disapproval to the Gestapo style and barbaric tactics deployed by the DSS operatives without recourse to the NJC to assault the base of the independence of the judiciary as the 3rd arm of government by their actions of October 8, 2016.