Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday adjourned indefinitely a suit filed by a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, seeking an order setting aside his suspension for 180 legislative days by the House on September 28, 2016.
The court’s decision was based on the fact that the appeal filed by two members of the House of Representatives, Nicholas Ossai and Orker-Jev Yisa, to challenge the judge’s ruling which earlier dismissed their applications to be joined as defendants to the suit, had been entered by the Court of Appeal.
Ossai was the Chairman of House Committee on Ethics, which recommended Jibrin’s suspension and Yisa was the House member who moved the motion for the suspension of the lawmaker from Kano State.
Jibrin’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), while reacting to the ruling, informed the judge that plan by the interested parties was to render the suit “spent and nurgatory” as the suspension which his client sought to challenge would lapse on June 28.
Justice Tsoho had on April 28 fixed Wednesday for the hearing of a motion for stay of proceedings filed by the two interested parties, asking the court to suspend hearing in the suit until the Court of Appeal decided their appeal against the ruling denying them opportunity to be joined in the suit.
But their lawyer, Mr. Hakeem Kareem, appeared before Justice Tsoho on Wednesday, informing the judge that since the last court session, his clients’ appeal before the Court of Appeal in Abuja had been entered.
He added that he had also filed a fresh motion for stay of the court’s proceedings before the Court of Appeal.
Kareem argued that, going by numerous judicial authorities, some of which he cited on Wednesday, the development implied that Justice Tsoho’s court had been robbed of jurisdiction to continue to conduct proceedings in the case until the Court of Appeal determined the fresh motion for stay before it.
Counsel for the defendants on record – the House of Representatives and the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara – Mr. Kalu Onuoha, aligned with Kareem’s position.
But Jibrin’s lawyer, Falana, argued that the judicial authorities cited by the interested parties’ lawyer would only be applicable if the parties pursuing the appeal before the Court of Appeal were parties on record.
He maintained that the court, having in its ruling on April 13, 2017 dismissed their joinder application and described them as “strangers” with no interest to protect in the proceedings, they lacked right to “oust the court of its jurisdiction”.
He also argued that it was an abuse of court process for the interested parties to have similar motions pending before the court and the Court of Appeal simultaneously.
He urged the judge to direct them to pursue their motion pending before the appellate court and allow the proceedings at the lower court to continue.
But in his ruling, Justice Tsoho held that Falana’s argument had not shifted the court’s earlier position in its ruling delivered on April 28, to the effect that the constitutional rights of the interested parties to be heard by the appeal court outweighed the procedural requirements the SAN was relying on.
He held that the interested parties having indicated their interest, which although was dismissed by the court, “the court is not minded to take any pre-emptive step” capable of undermining the eventual decision of the Court of Appeal, which he said could possibly order them to be joined as parties.
Justice Tsoho then struck out the interested parties’ motion for stay of proceedings filed before him to give room for the appeal court to decide on the similar one before it.
“This suit is adjourned pending the decision of the Court of Appeal on the motion for stay of proceedings,” Justice Tsoho ruled.
Jibrin had filed his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/Bl2/2015 seeking an order reinstating him to the House of Representatives following his suspension on September 28, 2016, for 180 legislative days.
He is also asking for N1bn as damages for his alleged wrongful suspension.