By Ise-Oluwa Ige
ABUJAâ€”A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday ruled that the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, could challenge, in court, his demotion by the Police, notwithstanding his purported dismissal.
The court, presided over by Justice Adamu Bello, said this yesterday while ruling on a multiple preliminary objection filed by the defendants in the suit.
The Federal Government had urged the court to strike out the suit on the grounds that it was an abuse of court process, spent, obsolete and incompetent.
The anti-corruption Czar had gone to court few days after he was demoted to challenge the Police authoritiesâ€™ decision.
Defendants in the suit are the Police Service Commission, PSC; Inspector-General of Police, IGP and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa (SAN).
They had argued that the suit was an abuse of court process because a similar suit was before the former Chief Judge, Abdullahi Mustapha.
But Justice Bello disagreed with them yesterday.
Court okaysÂ Ribadu’s suits
He held that the two suits were different in that one was challenging his demotion while the other was challenging his purported dismissal from the police.
â€œSince the subject-matters are different, it cannot be an abuse of court process.â€
The court said it is wrong to also say that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi to institute the action because he failed to explore the internal mechanism provided in the Police Force.
The trial judge faulted Sections 352 and 367 of the Police Act relied upon by the defendants.
Referring to a Federal High Courtâ€™s decision given by the former Chief Judge, Justice Bello said the word â€œmayâ€ in the section is a discretional right.
â€œTo my mind, it is a right which may not be exercised. It is not a right that can restrain the plaintiff from coming to court.â€
The judge asked what happens if the permission sought was not granted within three months before of the cause of action.
Why Ribadu won’t return now
Adopting Justice Mustapha (CJâ€™s) decision, he said: â€œIt will be fool-hardy for plaintiffs to write for application which may never come…â€
Even if it comes, he noted that the action may be statute-barred because the permission may not come within the three months allowed under the Public Officers Protection Act.
â€œTo say the same plaintiff must seek the approval of the Federal Government before seeking redress is against the constitution. The Police Act is inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution, it is hereby voided.â€
The court, however, agreed with the defendants that the suit cannot stand because it was wrongly commenced through Originating Summon instead of the writ of summon because the disputed facts in the substantive suit could only be settled through oral evidence.
According to him, allegation of infringement of the rights of the plaintiff to fair-hearing could not be resolved through affidavit evidence.
Justice Bello, however, ordered the conversion of the suit to writ of summon to enable parties file their statements of claim and defence.
He ordered parties to file and exchange statement of claims and defence before March 29 for the mention of the case
Ribaduâ€™s counsel, Mr. Charles Musa, yesterday, after the verdict, said it would be fool-hardy for his client to come to the country when he is being haunted by some elements who are determined to kill him.