CJ refuses Senate’s request to withdraw fiat in The Nation’s suit
Chief Judge (CJ) of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, has refused to withdraw the fiat directing Justice Mohammed Yunusa to deliver judgment in The Nation’s suit against the lawmakers.
The Senate had urged the CJ to withdraw the fiat so that the case could begin afresh before a new judge, Justice Jude Dagat.
Justice Yunusa had adjourned for judgment before he was transferred to Enugu Division.
Rather than withdraw the fiat, Justice Auta asked the Senate to raise any objections it may have before Justice Yunusa.
Justice Dagat has, therefore, directed that the file be returned to Justice Yunusa.
Yesterday, counsel for Vintage Press Limited (publisher of The Nation), Mr. Wahab Shittu, told Justice Dagat about the fiat.
He sought an adjournment to a convenient date for Justice Yunusa to deliver the judgment.
Counsel to the Senate, Dr. George Ogunyomi, said the CJ responded to their letter in which they asked him to withdraw the fiat.
“The CJ replied and noted our complaint. He said we are free to raise the issues before Justice Yunusa,” he said.
Justice Dagat said he could not adjourn to any particular date since he does not know when Justice Yunusa would return to Lagos.
“Since there is a fiat, the file is hereby remitted to Justice Yunusa for further action,” he ruled.
After Justice Dagat took over the case, the plaintiffs applied to the CJ for a fiat to enable Justice Yunusa return to Lagos to deliver the judgment rather than the case starting de novo (afresh). The fiat was issued.
The applicants (Vintage Press, The Nation Editor, Gbenga Omotoso and a correspondent, Imam Bello) are praying for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Senate from summoning them or compelling their appearance over a story.
The Senate, last August 4, invited Omotoso and Bello over the story: Motion: 22 APC northern senators ‘working against Buhari’, which was published last July 30. It wrote again last August 11 threatening to invoke Section 89 (1) (D) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to compel the applicants to appear.
Justice Yunusa made an interim order of injunction restraining the respondents from issuing a warrant to compel the applicants’ attendance before a Senate committee set up to investigate the publication.
The Senate, in an April 7 letter to the CJ through its counsel, Offiong Effiong Offiong (SAN), asked Justice Auta to withdraw the fiat on the basis that the plaintiffs “failed to duly effect service of the originating processes” on it.
According to Offiong, his client’s rights to justice would be “seriously compromised” if Justice Yunusa went ahead to deliver the judgment, adding that it must have “escaped Your lordship’s attention to ask for comments from the other parties” before the fiat was issued.
But, Shittu urged Justice Auta not to withdraw the fiat, adding that Justice Yunusa was entitled to examine the Senate’s pending applications and proceed in whatever manner he deemed fit without the case starting afresh.
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