The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday struck out a suit praying for an order suspending the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji, and an order for a forensic audit of the organisation’s accounts from inception.
The plaintiff was by the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2020, challenging the legality of the NSIA, which was created by the NSIA (establishment) Act 2011 during the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration with the responsibility to receive, manage and invest some of the Federal Account funds to prepare for the eventual depletion of Nigeria’s oil reserve.
But Justice Ahmed Mohammed struck out the case on Monday following an application by the plaintiff, Johnmary Jideobi, who is an Abuja-based lawyer, for the withdrawal of the suit.
The plaintiff had filed the suit on May 22, 2020, arguing that various provisions of the NSIA Act violated the provisions of sections 80 and 162 of the Nigerian Constitution which created the Federation Account/Consolidated Revenue Fund Account and provided that all revenues accruing to the Federal Government must be paid into them and shared by the tiers of governments.
He also argued that the National Assembly lacked the power to make a law like the NSIA which he contended authorised the violation of the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution.
But on July 6, 2020, Jideobi filed an application for the withdrawal of the suit.
While he did not disclose the reason for the application for the withdrawal of the suit, he urged the court to strike it out.
However, at the July 7, 2020 proceedings, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), who is the counsel for NSIA and its MD, sued as the 5th and the 6th defendants, respectively, urged the court to rather dismiss the suit instead of merely striking it out as the plaintiff requested.
Awomolo urged the court to dismiss the suit with a cost of N1m awarded against the plaintiff because the application for the withdrawal of the suit was belatedly filed after his clients were made to go through the rigour of filing their defence in the case.
But the plaintiff had insisted that the case be struck out and not dismissed, after which the court adjourned till Monday for ruling.
Ruling on the argument on the issue on Monday, Justice Mohammed held that going by the rules of the court, the appropriate order to make was that of striking out and not of dismissal.
He held that contrary to the argument by the 5th and the 6th defendants’ lawyer, the plaintiff did not require the leave of court to withdraw the suit because the application for its withdrawal filed on July 6, 2020, was filed within 14 days of serving the suit on the defendants on July 1.
The court, however, ruled that the two defendants having been made to file their defence before the application for the withdrawal of the suit was filed, were entitled to N150,000 cost to be paid to them by the plaintiff.
He ruled that the plaintiff must pay the N150,000 cost to the two defendants before taking any future steps which might include refiling the suit on the same subject matter against the same set of defendants or their privies.
The defendants in the suit included the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; the National Assembly, and its clerk.
The rest of the defendants were the NSIA, the agency’s managing director, Uche; the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), and and the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.