*Fixes April 21 for hearing
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri— ABUJA
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting at Apo, yesterday, declined to strike out the suit Ms. Precious Chikwendu, the estranged wife of former Minister of Aviation, Chief Fani-Kayode, filed to take custody of their four kids.
However, the court, in a ruling that was delivered by Justice Sylvester Oriji, upheld Fani-Kayode’s contention that the suit was not properly served on him.
Justice Oriji said there was no evidence before the court that the former Minister was personally served with copies of the court processes as required by the law.
He noted that the court bailiff had in an affidavit of service he deposed to, averred that he did not see the former Minister personally when he took the processes to his Abuja residence.
The court said it was legally fundamental that the respondent is served in person before hearing could commence in the matter.
It, however, observed that Fani-Kayode had in a text message he sent to his former wife, acknowledged receipt of the originating summons.
Justice Oriji held that the text message, which read: “I received your summons, we shall meet in court”, was an indication that he received the processes.
He said it was for the police to investigate whether the acknowledgment text which bore the name of the respondent, was forged or not.
“The issue of whether the respondent actually signed the document or any other person signed on his behalf is subject of investigation by police and the court cannot make any findings on it.
“I need to point out that the bailiff did not see the respondent personally as contained in his affidavit of service.
“Bailiff should have insisted on seeing him personally and if that was not possible, he should have returned the process to the court.
“In the light of the doubt cast on personal service of the process on the Respondent, it is proper to set it aside.
“The purported service is hereby set aside, “ Justice Oriji ruled.
The court rejected request by Fani-Kayode’s lawyer, Mr. Adeola Adedipe, for the suit to be struck out, maintaining that the issue of non-service was not sufficient to invalidate the entire legal action. Consequently, it ordered that the Originating Summons and fresh hearing notice should be served on the Respondent, even as it adjourned the matter to April 21 for hearing.
Fani-Kayode had in a counter-affidavit he filed in protest, urged the court to set aside the purported service of the suit on him, contending that it was done in breach of the provision of order 6 rule 4 and order 7 rule 2 of the FCT High Court.
He further prayed the court to decline its jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
According to him, “except there is service or proper service of the originating processes filed in this case on the Respondent/Applicant, this honourable court will lack the jurisdiction to conduct further proceedings.”
Ms. Chikwendu had in the substantive suit marked CV/372/2021, applied for an order of the court granting custody of the four sons she had with the former Minister- Aragon, Ragnar, Aiden and Liam Fani-Kayode- to her, but with reasonable right of access to their father.
She is praying the court to direct the former Minister who was cited as the sole Respondent in the matter, to pay the sum of N3.438million monthly towards the maintenance and upkeep of the four kids, “with the possibility of a review of the sum every two years upon an application to the court”.
The former beauty queen further asked the court to direct the Respondent to be responsible for the payment of all sums and ancillary expenditure necessary for, arising from and appertaining/incidental to the advancement, and/or education of the four kids.
In a 39-paragraph affidavit she personally deposed to in support of the suit, Ms. Chikwendu, narrated how she was repeatedly maltreated and abused by the former Minister.
She said her relationship with the Respondent was “a turbulent and unhappy one”, saying he was “in the habit of beating me up during every quarrel”.
Ms. Chikwendu alleged that the Respondent severally kicked her on the stomach while she was pregnant.
“The Respondent will strip me naked in the full glare of everyone in the premises, threaten to kill me while hitting me, and on other occasions, exhibit all forms of cruelty towards me.
“That I made several unsuccessful attempt to leave the relationship because of the escalating abuse and violence, but the Respondent will in his usual trend, use the Nigerian Police Force to restrain and unlawfully detain me”.
She told the court that in 2018 when she attempted to leave the house with the children, the Respondent, in the company of the immediate DPO of Asokoro Police Division and her team of police men, “handcuffed me and stripped me naked while someone from the crowd whom u initially mistook for a policeman, forcefully injected me with a sedation.
“That I was then abducted and incarcerated at a hospital for a period of two weeks. I was separated from my six months old triplets and a year-old son at the time”.