Bulletproof Cars: Why Court Dismissed Odua’s Suit To Stop Trial

 

Stella Oduah

Stella Oduah

Justice Okon Abang, of a Federal High Court in Lagos, has identified want of jurisdiction as the reason for dismissing the fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Stella Oduah, the former minister of aviation against the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, EFCC, ICPC and the Inspector General of Police. In addition to the dismissal the judged ordered her to pay a cost of N15, 000 to the AGF.

Oduah had filed the suit in August last year praying the court to restrain agencies of the Federal Government from questioning or prosecuting her over the purchase of two armoured BMW vehicles at a cost of N255m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority under her watch as the Aviation Minister in 2013.

In her suit, Oduah claimed to have already been probed and exonerated by the House of Representatives Committee on Aviation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and urged Justice Abang to declare that any further probe would amount to violating her fundamental rights. The former minister alleged that she was simply being persecuted for being a member of the opposition and prayed the court to restrain the respondents from unleashing repression against her.

But the EFCC denied doing the bidding of the ruling APC, claiming that it was independent institution

The Commission presented a petition dated October 18, 2013, written by a lawyer from the chambers of Femi Falana, a rights activist and lawyer, calling for Oduah’s investigation. The EFCC disclosed that the said petition was captioned, ‘Request for Investigation of Economic and Financial Crimes of the sum of N255m by Aviation Minister, Ms. Stella Oduah’.

The EFCC urged the court to dismiss Oduah’s suit.

Although Justice Abang dismissed the EFCC’s objection for not complying with Order 8 Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure, he, however, upheld the preliminary objection filed by the AGF, who challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Lagos to entertain Oduah’s suit.

T.A. Gazali counsel for the AGF had contended that since the rights violation that Oduah alleged did not happen in Lagos, it would be a violation of Section 46(1) of the constitution and Order 2 Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure to entertain the case in Lagos.

“From the whole of the applicant’s averments, there is nowhere she mentioned that her right was or is being breached by the respondents within the territorial space called Lagos. There is nothing to show that the applicant was invited, arrested or detained in Lagos by any of the respondents in the suit.

“The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos cannot assume jurisdiction to entertain alleged breach of fundamental rights that did not take place in Lagos State,” Gazali had argued.

Justice Abang upheld Gazali’s argument and dismissed Oduah’s case.

The judge also held that if the Federal Government had any valid reason to arraign Oduah in a Lagos State High Court as she alleged, it would not amount a violation of her right.

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