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Court hears suit against confab March 31

Dr. Tunji Abayomi

An Abuja Federal High Court on Tuesday joined the leadership of the national conference as defendants in a suit, which is challenging the constitutionality of the programme.

The presiding judge, Justice Abdul Kafarati, joined the chairman, Justice Idris Kutigi (retd.), the deputy chairman, Prof Bolaji Akinyemi, and the secretary, Dr. Valerie Azinge, as the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants in the suit, after the plaintiff, Dr. Tunji Abayomi, informed the court of his wish to sue them alongside President Goodluck Jonathan and  other defendants.

Jonathan, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, SAN; Senate President, David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, were initially named as the 1st to 4th defendants in the suit before the plaintiff amended the originating summons.

Abayomi, who is representing himself in the case, had asked the “court to join the three personalities that are leading the constitutionally contested conference – Justice Kutigi,  Akinyemi and Azinge as the 5th, 6th and 7th defendants respectively.”

With the conference already in progress, Abayomi also applied to withdraw a motion for an interlocutory injunction, filed on March 3, in which he asked the court to stop the conference pending the determination of the suit.

The plaintiff explained that he withdrew the interlocutory motion to enable the court to determine the substantive issue in the case – the constitutionality of the conference.

Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, who is representing the President and the AGF in the case, did not oppose Abayomi’s bid to join the leadership of the national conference in the suit.

Falana, who is also among the delegates representing civil society organisations in the conference, did not object to the withdrawal of the motion for interlocutory injunction.

The Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were not represented by any lawyer in the case, even though Abayomi noted that they had been served with the court process.

Justice Kafarati ordered further service of the hearing notice on the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and subsequently adjourned the suit to March 31 for mention.

Speaking to journalists after the court session, Abayomi explained why he had to join Kutigi, Akinyemi and Azinge in the suit.

“In order to prevent the argument that they (national conference) are an independent body, we had to join them to complete the action,” he said.

Abayomi, a member of the All Progressives Congress, denied insinuations that the suit was motivated by his political party’s opposition to Jonathan.

“Instead of spending N12m on each delegate, why not use that money to create jobs?

“You are spending the money on people that are already rich while the poor are dying.

“If it was necessary to spend such money, is there no need to have a law approving it?

“The conference is upon undefined contours and we are going to spend N8bn.”

In the suit numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/ 167/204 and dated March 3, 2014, Abayomi argued that the President lacked the powers to convene a national conference without an authorizing legislation from the National Assembly. Copyright PUNCH.
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