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Court assumes jurisdiction, insists on hearing Taraba chieftaincy case

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A Jalingo High Court yesterday declared that it had the Jurisdiction to entertain the chieftaincy case instituted by stakeholders from Gassol Local Council Taraba State challenging the appointment of John Agbu Sokwa as the third class chief of the newly created Kwararrafa chiefdom in the area.

Ruling on an application by the state government praying the court to dismiss the suit, citing lack of jurisdiction to hear the issue, Justice Dauda Buba explained that Section 4 (3) of the Chiefs Appointment and Deposition Law of Taraba 2018 might not necessarily mean that the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

On the question of locus standi of the plaintiffs, he said while there was no any averment linking the second plaintiff, Senator Ibrahim Goje with the Kwararrafa chieftaincy tussle, same could not be said of the first plaintiff, Ibrahim Jauro Isa.

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The judge, who went ahead to struck out Goje’s name, adding that the first plaintiff, who had at various times been appointed ward and village head of kwararrafa in accordance with native law and custom of the area, could not be said to be lacking locus standi in prosecuting the matter.

The applicants, as observed by The Guardian, had sometimes in October 2018 instituted an action against Sokwa, the third class chief, as the first defendant as well as Governor Darius Ishaku and the Attorney General of the state as second and third defendants.

Throwing more light on the law, the trial judge asserted: “ In the case of any dispute, the governor, after due inquiry and consultancy with the persons concerned in the selection, shall be the sole judge as to whether any appointment of any chief or head chief is in accordance with this order.

“Looking at the above sub-section, the governor shall be the sole judge only after due inquiry and consultation with persons concerned in the selection of the chief or head chief.”

Observing that the section was not intended to oust the jurisdiction of any court, Justice Buba stated: “It appears to me that the role conferred on the governor by Section 4 (3) is not more than that of an arbitrator who shall take a decision alone after due inquiry and consultation with those concerned with the selection of a chief or head chief.

“Assuming without holding that I am wrong that the intendment of Section 4 (3) is to oust the jurisdiction of the court, then in my view, it is in conflict with the provision of the constitution and therefore null and void to the extent of its inconsistency.”

Maintaining that Section 272 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) conferred unlimited jurisdiction on the high court, the judge further observed that Section 4 (8) of the nation’s lawbook holds: “Safe as otherwise provided by this constitution, the exercise of legislative powers by the National Assembly or a house of assembly shall be subject to the jurisdiction of courts of law and or judicial tribunals established by law, and accordingly, the National Assembly or a state house assembly shall not enact any law that oust or purport to oust the jurisdiction of a court of law or a judicial tribunal established by law.”

Adding that in the event of a “recalcitrant conduct by the National Assembly or a state house of assembly by enacting a law purported to oust the jurisdiction of any court, the constitution is supreme as provided by Section 1 (1) of the document.”

According to him, “this constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and if any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution, the constitution shall prevail and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”

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