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Call your witnesses, court tells Lagos indigenes in marginalisation suit

By Joseph Onyekwere
27 June 2022   |   3:27 am
Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has ordered parties in a suit filed by some Lagos State indigenes over alleged neglect in appointments to public offices and career...

Federal High Court, Lagos

Justice Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has ordered parties in a suit filed by some Lagos State indigenes over alleged neglect in appointments to public offices and career positions to file pleadings and call witnesses.

The judge gave the order in a ruling on the objections raised by the respondents in the suit. In his ruling, Justice Allagoa noted that the facts of the case were contentious in nature and as such, oral pleadings are necessary.

The judge held: “I have examined the affidavit’s evidence in support of the originating summons and I am of the view that the facts are contentious.

“The plaintiffs’ complaint centered on non-conformity with the Federal Character Commission Act. This requires factual proof of the allegation. The documentary evidence attached to the affidavit in support of the originating summons was dumped on the court.

“Those documents need to be demonstrated by oral evidence. In the circumstance and in the interest of justice, I hereby order pleadings to be filed by parties in accordance with the rules of this court.”

The judge consequently adjourned the matter to October 19, 2022 for further hearing. The plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1465/2020 are Yakubu Eleto, Adeyemi Onikoro, Shittu Akeem, Nurudeen Argegbeshola (all lawyers), Chief Muhammed Jamiu, Madam Titilayo Ogun and Gbenga Agoro, who sued for themselves and on behalf of Lagosians Advocacy Group (LAG).

The defendants are President Muhammadu Buhari, Federal Character Commission (FCC), Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Senate, Lagos State Governor, Lagos Attorney-General, Lagos House of Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Others are All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Head of Service of the Federation, Federal Civil Service Commission, Lagos Head of Service, Lagos Civil Service Commission, as well as state local councils, House of Assembly, Judicial, Teaching and Health service commissions.

The plaintiffs, in their originating summons, are praying for a declaration that under sections 13 and 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Paragraph 8, Part 1 of the Third Schedule and sections 4 and 5 of the Federal Character Commission Act 2010, the President and the Senate are obliged to appoint and confirm persons “who are the best and competent indigenes of Lagos State to fill political public offices and career posts or positions reserved for indigenes of Lagos State in the government and public service of the Federation.”

They prayed for a declaration that the appointment of a person who is not an indigene of Lagos into public office and career post reserved for indigenes of Lagos breaches the constitutional provisions and is, therefore, unlawful and null and void.

Among other reliefs and prayers, the plaintiffs are seeking an order compelling the defendants to comply with sections 13 and 14 (3) & (4), as well as an order of perpetual injunction restraining all defendants from further breaching them.

The plaintiffs, through their counsel, Yakubu Eleto, argued that the defendants were bound to comply with the provisions in recognition of the diversity of the people of Nigeria and the need to avoid neglect of any section.

The sections provide that the composition of the government or any of its agencies “shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character.”

But the defendants contended in their preliminary objections that the plaintiffs had no locus standi to file the action and that the substance of the case was not justiciable.