The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, declined to hear fundamental rights enforcement suit the erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Jibrin Abdulmumin, lodge before it. Jibrin had approached the court, begging it to shield him from being arrested or interrogated over his allegation that Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara and three other lawmakers, surreptitiously padded the 2016 budget with about N40billion.
The plaintiff, through his team of lawyers led by Mohammed Abdulhamid and Chukwuma Nwachukwu, told the court that his colleagues were plotting to implicate and make him “a scapegoat” after he revealed how N40bn out of N100bn allocated to the entire National Assembly, was diverted. In an affidavit deposed to by an aide at the House of Reps, Mr. Bashir Bello, the plaintiff, said that trouble started after he confronted Dogara with statistics of 2, 000 new projects that were injected into the Appropriation Bill by less than 10 Committee Members.
He said Dogara and the others had earlier failed to persuade him, as Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, “to admit into the National Budget the sum of about N30billlion”. Aside the Speaker and his Deputy, Hon. Yusuf Lasun, other Reps members cited as 6th and 7th Respondents in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/539/2016, were the Chief Whip, Alhassan Doguwa and the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor. While the Nigeria Police, the Inspector General, the Commissioner of Police for the Federal Capital Territory and the Attorney-General of the Federation, were listed as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 8th Respondents, respectively.
Meanwhile, when the matter came up on Wednesday, trial Justice Okon Abang who is currently sitting as a vacation judge, refused to hear the suit. The judge stressed that Jibrin ought to have obtained leave that would enable the court to hear his matter during vacation. According to Justice Abang, “A matter filed during court vacation is not heard as a matter of cause. “The applicant is expected to apply and obtain the leave of court to have his matter herd during the court vacation in line with the provisions of Order 46 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009.
I so hold. “This applicant did not do so. I do not have jurisdiction to even grant an adjournment of this suit. “It is expected that the applicant will do the needful to comply with the provisions of the rules of this court.” Besides praying the court for protection, Jibrin had equally sought an order directing the Respondents, jointly and severally, to pay him N500m as aggravated and exemplary damages for violating his rights, and to also publish a written apology to him in two prominent national dailies. He told the court that the Respondents, aside denying him the opportunity to substantiate his allegations before other members of the House in plenary, sponsored an invasion of his home where he said a seven-month old baby and a convalescing mother were greatly harassed and humiliated.
“That the Applicant’s fundamental rights to dignity, liberty, movement, fair hearing, private and family life has been breached and he is still afraid that the rights would be further breached unless the court intervenes”. Consequently, he urged the court to enforce his fundamental human rights as enshrined in section 34, 35, 36, 37 and 41 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.
He applied for seven principal reliefs, including; “A declaration that the Respondents, their officers, servants, agents, privies or howsoever named have no power to desecrate, abridge, disturb, infringe, circumscribe or violate the Applicant’s fundamental rights to his dignity, liberty, movement, fair hearing, private and family like and movement pursuant to sections 34, 35, 36, 37 and 41 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, and Articles 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12 and 18 respectively of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap A9, LFN, 2004. As well as, “An order of mandatory injunction restraining the Respondents whether by themselves, officers, servants, agents, privies or howsoever named from further attempting to arrest, arresting, intimidating, threatening or infringing on the Applicant’s fundamental rights except in strict compliance with the Constitution”.