A Federal High Court in Abuja has struck out a suit challenging the legitimacy of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) created by the NSIA (establishment) Act of 2011.
The former President Goodluck Jonathan administration had created the agency and saddled it with the responsibility to receive, manage and invest part of the nation’s revenue to prepare for the eventual depletion of Nigeria’s oil reserve.
A lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi had filed the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2020, on May 22, 2020, contending that the various provisions of the NSIA Act violated the provisions of sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution, which created the Federation Account/Consolidated Revenue Fund Account.
Jideobi argued that the said constitutional provisions are to the effect that all revenues accruing to the Federal Government must be paid into the Federation Account/Consolidated Revenue Fund Account and shared by the tiers of governments.
He also argued that the National Assembly lacked the power to make a law like the NSIA which he contended authorised the violation of the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution.
He urged the court to, among others declare the agency illegal, suspend its Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Uche Orji and order a forensic audit of the organisation’s accounts from inception.
Listed as defendants in the suit included the Senate President, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the National Assembly, and its clerk.
Others were the NSIA, Orji, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and and the Minister of Finance.
After all the defendants fled their responses to the suit, the plantiff failed an application to withdraw on July 6, 2020.
Jideobi was silent on why he sought to withdraw the case, but prayed the court to strike it out.
Although the other defendants did not object to the plaintiff’s application, lawyer NSIA and Orji (sued as the 5th and 6th defendants), Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) raised an objection.
Awomolo argued that at the point where the plaintiff applied to withdraw, his clients had put in a lot into their defence.
He added that the proper order to be made at that stage was that of dismissal.
He also asked for N1million cost against the plaintiff.
In a ruling on Monday, Justice Mohammed was of the view that by the court’s rules, the appropriate order to make was that of striking out and not of dismissal.
Justice Mohammed said, as against argument by Awomolo, the plaintiff did not require the leave of court to withdraw the suit because the application for its withdrawal filed on July 6, 2020, was filed within 14 days of serving the suit on the defendants on July 1.
He said since the two defendants (5th and 6th) were made to file their defence before the application for withdrawal, they were entitled to N150, 000 cost to be paid to them by the plaintiff.
Justice Mohammed ordered the plaintiff to pay the N150, 000 cost to the two defendants before taking any further steps on the case, either by re-filing the suit or filing a separate case on the same subject matter against the same set of defendants or their privies.