ByÂ Innocent Anaba
Mr Friday Iyamu,Â has dragged before a Lagos State High Court, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, and four others over the administrative transfer of his caseÂ involving Spring Bank Plc, himself and Promkon Nigeria Limited and two others.
Also joined as defendants in the suit are the Chief Registrar, Lagos High Court, Attorney General, Lagos State, Promkon Nigeria Limited and Engineer A. Adeloye.
The claimant through his counsel,Â Lit Erhabor is contending that the transfer of his suit from Justice Mojisola Dada to another judge of the court,Â was done in violation of the principles of fair hearing and natural justice.
He is praying the court to hold that the transfer of the suit amount to denial of justice and therefore unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
According to him,Â the suit was in address stage when it was transferred upon an alleged petition by one of the parties without affordingÂ the other parties in the suit the opportunity of responding to the allegation in the petition,Â upon which the transfer was based.
The claimant is asking the court to determine whether by the provisions of Sections 56 (1) & (2) of the High Court Law of Lagos State and Section 36 of the 1999 constitution and by virtue of any other Act or legislation, the Chief Judge of Lagos can without due regard to the facts and circumstances of suit, order its transfer from the court ofÂ Justice Dada to another judge of the court.
* Whether the exercise of the powers of the CJ under Section 56 (1) &.(2) of the High Court Law of Lagos State is absolute and irrespective of whether same was exercised in bad faith and arbitrarily which will lead to undue delay and denial of justice contrary to Section (6) (6) (b) of the 1999 constitution and the High Court of Lagos State Civil Procedure Rules 2004 with its emphasis on expeditions disposition of cases before the court of Lagos State.
According to him, the CJ acted arbitrarily and without justice and equity, when he ordered the transfer of a suit that has proceeded to address stage after over sixteen years of parties being in court for the case to now commence de-novo.
He maintained that he bought the property,Â the subject matter of suit from Spring Bank Plc (then Owena Bank) upon foreclosure and exercise of power of sale sometime in 1992, while the fourth and fifth respondents challenged the mortgagee exercise of the power of sale of the property in another suit, which was struck out for want of diligent prosecution sometime in 2003.
According to him, in April, 2006, at the pre-trial stage, counsel to the defendants in that suit, allegedly sought to scuttle the proceedings in the suit but his application for stay of proceedings was dismissed by the court and the suit was thereafter assigned to Justice Dada for trial which began in March 2007 but Adekunle Ojo protested against the trial,Â citing his applications for stay of proceedings pending before the Court of Appeal.
However, the trial judge, Justice Dada decided to proceed with the trial until the Court of Appeal decided otherwise and the Appeal Court on May 7, 2008 and July 3, 2008 dismissed the two applications for stay of proceedings, and awarded yet to be paid cost of N20,000 against the respondents.
According to him, when the matter came up for adoption of final written address on September 8, 2008, the trial judge, Justice Dada informed the parties in the open court that the CJ had requested for the case file on the strength of a petition written by Mr. Ojo and that his worst fear became confirmed that the petition was written in secrecy and was to be treated by the CJ in secrecy, adding thatÂ sometime in December 2009, he discovered that the CJ had directed that the suit be transferred to another judge,Â Justice Gbajabiamila to commence de-novo.