Famous Lagos lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, has said that the decision of an Abuja Federal High Court to proscribe and label the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, under the leadership of Nnamdi Kanu a terrorist organisation is illegal and a gross abuse of court process.
In a statement he personally signed by the activist lawyer and obtained by CHECKPOINTCHARLEY, Adegboruwa stated that the Abuja Federal High Court has, “no jurisdiction to entertain, let alone adjudicate upon the case.”
The statement read, “On Wednesday, September 20, 2017, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation, filed Suit No.FHC/ABJ/871/2017, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, against the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), seeking for an order of proscription of IPOB, the supposed defendant in the said suit. The Court granted all the orders as prayed.
“Legally speaking, the suit filed, the order granted and indeed all the proceedings in this case, constitute a gross abuse of the process of the Court, as the Court has no jurisdiction to entertain, let alone adjudicate, upon the case. The suit was not initiated following due process of law, as stated by the Supreme Court in the locus classicus case of Madukolu v Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341. The suit filed and the orders granted have no foundation upon which they can stand and be maintained or enforced.
“The supposed defendant in the case is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which is not a registered entity in law. And even if it is registered, it can only be sued in the name of its incorporated trustees or indeed its accredited representatives. Furthermore, unlike other associations like the Nigerian Bar Association, IPOB is not recognized or mentioned or legitimized in any existing statute.
“For a suit to be competent, there must be proper parties before the court. In this case, the supposed defendant, IPOB, is a non juristic person, against which no action can be maintained in any court of law.
“This issue has recently been settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Sunkanmi Dairo & 6 Ors. v. The Registered Trustees of the Anglican Diocese of Lagos, Appeal Number SC.148/2006, in the judgment delivered on 23rd June, 2017, where the Supreme Court held as follows:
“Per Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs, JSC:
“A person must have the requisite legal capacity to be a party to a law suit … the consequence of not producing the Registered Trustees’ Certificate means that the plaintiff is not a juristic person capable of suing and being sued. Accordingly, the judgment entered by the High Court, Lagos and affirmed by the Court of Appeal is a nullity and is hereby set aside.”
“Per Olabode Rhodes-Vivour, JSC:
“Since the plaintiff/respondent failed to prove its incorporation, this is fatal to its case. The plaintiff/respondent has no power to sue as it is not a juristic person capable of suing or being sued. Judgment cannot be given in favour of a non-existent body such as the plaintiff/respondent. For this, and the more detailed reasoning and conclusion in the leading judgment I agree with his lordship Aka’ahs JSC that the judgment of the trial court is nullity, and the judgment of the Court of Appeal which affirmed the judgment of the trial court is also a nullity.”
“Per Chima Centus Nweze, JSC:
“Here, I take liberty to state that our law attributes juristic personality, that is, the capacity to maintain and defend actions in court to natural persons and artificial persons or institutions … who are therefore, known to law as legal persons. In consequence, only natural persons or a body of persons whom statutes have, either expressly or by implication, clothed with the garment of legal personality could prosecute or defend law suits by that name.”
“Per Paul Adamu Galinje, JSC:
“The law is well settled beyond argument that a person must have the requisite legal capacity to be a party to a legal suit … Where an association of persons is unincorporated, it does not have the legal status of a juristic person. Consequently, it can sue only by a representative action. Likewise, any person who has been wronged by such an association of persons can only sue it by suing some of its members as representatives of the association.
“For a court to be competent and have jurisdiction over a matter, it is necessary that the condition that the proper and competent parties must be identified must be fulfilled. In the instant case the respondent who initiated this action at the trial court had no legal capacity to do so. In the circumstance, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit.”
“From all the foregoing pronouncements of the Supreme Court, it is clear beyond any doubt that the order of the Federal High Court, made against IPOB, a non juristic entity, is a nullity.
“I do hereby humbly urge the federal government not to rely on this nullity to arrest or prosecute any citizen of Nigeria, alleged to be a member of IPOB.. Something cannot be put on nothing and be expected to stand. It must collapse.
“In conclusion, I urge the federal government to keep this null order in its cooler, and seize this golden opportunity, to engage the accredited representatives of the people of the South East zone of Nigeria, to achieve a common understanding.”
An Abuja Federal High Court, presided by Justice Abdu Kafarati, had on Wednesday declared IPOB a terror group, following an application by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, asking for the proscription of the group.