A FEDERAL high court in Lagos has dismissed a fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by Stella Oduah, a former minister of Aviation, against the attorney general of the federation and three others.
Justice Okon Abang, dismissed Oduah’s suit for want of jurisdiction Wednesday, February 17, and ordered her to pay a cost of N15,000 to the AGF.
Ruling on a suit filed by Oduah, Abang upheld the preliminary objection filed by the AGF, who challenged the jurisdiction of the court in Lagos to entertain Oduah’s suit.
T.A. Gazali, counsel for the AGF, had contended that since the rights violation that Oduah alleged did not happen in Lagos, it would be a violation of Section 46(1) of the constitution and Order 2 Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure to entertain the case in Lagos.
“From the whole of the applicant’s averments, there is nowhere she mentioned that her right was or is being breached by the respondents within the territorial space called Lagos….The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos cannot assume jurisdiction to entertain alleged breach of fundamental rights that did not take place in Lagos State,” Gazali had argued.
Thus, the judge upheld Gazali’s argument and dismissed Oduah’s case.
Abang, however, held that if the federal government had any valid reason to arraign Oduah in a Lagos State high court as she alleged, it would not amount a violation of her right.
Oduah had filed the suit in August last year praying the court to restrain agencies of the federal government from questioning or prosecuting her over the purchase of two armoured BMW vehicles at a cost of N255m by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority while she was the aviation minister in 2013.
In her suit, Oduah claimed to have already been probed and exonerated by the House of Representatives Committee on aviation and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and therefore, urged the court to declare that any further probe would amount to violating her fundamental rights.
The respondents in the suit were the AGF, the EFCC, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, and the inspector general of Police.
Oduah alleged that the ruling All Progressives Congress intended to use the respondents to persecute her, being a prominent member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party.
She claimed that the federal government had perfected plans to try prominent members of the PDP on trump up charges in a special Lagos State high court, so as to turn the country into a one-party state.
She urged the court to restrain the respondents from unleashing repression against her.
But the EFCC denied doing the bidding of the APC, claiming that it was independent.
It furnished the court with a petition dated October 18, 2013 written by a lawyer from chambers of Femi Falana, SAN, calling for investigation of the former minister.
The EFCC urged the court to dismiss Oduah’s suit.
But in his judgment, Abang dismissed the EFCC’s objection for not complying with Order 8 Rule 1 of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure.
“The EFCC did not file any opposition in line with the law,” Justice Abang held.
— Feb 17, 2016 @ 17:30 GMT