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JUDICIARY

Anti-opening Grazing Law: Miyetti Allah Heads to Appeal Court

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By Taiye Agbaje

The Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore Social-cultural Association, has approched the Court of Appeal in its bid to upturn the Federal High Court Judgment which refused its challenge of the Anti-open grazing law being implemneted bythe Benue state governemnt.

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had on July 4, presided by Justice Okon Abang declined to stop implementation of the law enacted by the Benue State House of Assembly in 2017.

In dismissing the Suite however, Justice Abang awarded N100,000 cost in favour of each of the 14 defendants in the case and ordered that the fines be paid before the plaintiffs could appeal agaisnt the judgment.

The appellants in the case include the Fulani group, Alhaji Abdullahi Bodojo and Mr Saleh Alhassan, while the respondents are National Assembly, Attorney General of the Federation, Inspector General of Police, Benue State House of Assembly and the Benue government, among others.

In the notice of appeal filed on July 30, the plaintiffs sought from the Court of Appeal ”an order allowing the appeal and an order setting aside the lower court’s judgment and ordering a re-hearing of the matter before another judge of the lower court.”

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They raised 10 grounds of appeal.

The appellants argued that the lower court was in error in holding that they had no valid originating summons even when they filed an amended one.

”The appellants filed an irregular and voidable amended originating summons on the  May 31 without payment of the default tees.

”Yet the lower court held that the originating summons is invalid and a nullity.

”It is trite law that a mistake of counsel cannot be visited on the litigant especial when it is pardonable and the irregular amended process filed on the May 31 is before the court and the lower court have the duty to ensure that the suit of the appellants is heard on the merit.

”The lower court ought not to shut out a litigant by dismissing his claim when the process of court is amended in error without seeking extension of time to amend same.

”More so all the respondents have filed their various counter affidavits against the originating summons.

”The failure to pay the default fees or filing fees for the amended originating summons filed on May 31 only made it at worst a voidable and not void or a nullity.

”The lower court can order the payment of the default fees pursuant to the relevant Rules of the lower court,” they said.

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According to them, the under assessment or failure of payment of default filing fees cannot be a basis of punishing the litigant with an order of dismissal of the suit.

“The non-compliance with order 17 rule six of the lower court civil procedure Rules have nothing to do with the jurisdiction of the lower court.

”The low court determined the substantive suit at the interlocutory stage of the suit by holding that the 4th defendant IawfuIIy enacted the Grazing Prohibition ad Ranches Establishment Law 2017 ad further held that the law was duly assented to by the Governor of the Benue in a ruling tagged as judgment,” they said. (NAN)

JUDICIARY

Benue APC Tussle: Court Strikes Out Aondoakaa’s Suit Against Fr. Alia

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The Federal High Court, Abuja has struck out a suit by an aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in Benue, Mr Michael Aondoakaa, SAN, challenging the emergence of Rev. Fr. Hyacinth Alia as the party’s governorship candidate for the 2023 governorship election.

Delivering judgment on Thursday in Abuja, Justice Ahmed Mohammed held that although the suit was a pre-election matter, Aondoakaa filed it out of time.

“The grouse of the plaintiff is that the Benue APC primary election was not conducted in complaince with the law.

“The APC primary election took place on May 26 and the plaintiff was enjoined by law to commerce action within 14 days.

The judge held that the law was trite that where the cause of action was commenced on time, the litigant will have his right protected.

He said that since the primary election took place on May 26, filing the suit on June 10 made the suit status barred.

“From May 26 to June 10 is a period of more than 14 Days for filing a pre-election matter.

“The suit is therefore incompetent and the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the suit and the suit is hereby struck out,” the judge said.

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The judge also said that having found that the suit was filed out of time, there was no basis delving into the substantial matter.

Newsmen report that Aondoakaa, a former Attorney-General, had dragged the APC, Fr. Alia and the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) to court on the grounds that the APC conducted it’s governorship primary election in Benue in violation of the law

He asked the court to declare among other reliefs that Alia was not fit to contest the primary election because he was not a member of the APC.

“A declaration that the 2nd defendant (Fr. Alia) is not qualified to vote, contest and/or be declared as the winner of the 1st defendant’s (APC) Benue gubernatorial primary election, he not been a member of the party and his name not been contained in the list of the party’s membership register submitted to INEC.

“A declaration that pursuant to the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the APC, the party has failed or neglected or refused to conduct a primary election for the emergence of its gubernatorial candidate in Benue for the 2023 governorship elections.

“A declaration that by virtue of the non-compliance of the APC with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and it’s constitution in the conduct of the primary election in Benue for the emergence of its gubernatorial candidate, Fr. Alia is not a candidate at the said March 11, 2023 gubernatorial election or at any subsequent election rescheduled.

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“To declare as null, void and of no effect whatsoever the Benue APC governorship primaries allegedly conducted on May 26 for non compliance with the provisions of the law.

” A further declaration that the summary result sheet of the Benue APC governorship primary election dated May 28 is a null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”

Aondoakaa also asked the court to declare that Fr. Alia could not validly contest and be declared as winner of the APC primary election being an ordained priest of the Catholic Church and fully engaged as a minister in the employment and or service of the Catholic Church.

He also prayed the court to declare that he was not given an equal opportunity to participate in the said Benue APC governorship primary election.

He further asked the court to make an order directing a fresh conduct of Benue APC governorship primaries.

The plaintiff, in addition, asked for a perpetual injunction restraining Fr. Alia from holding or carrying on or parading himself as the gubernatorial candidate of the APC for the March 11, 2023 gubernatorial election in Benue.

He asked for damages in the sum of N150 million  (NAN)

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JUDICIARY

Conviction: Appeal Court to Hear Abdulrasheed Maina’s Appeal Feb.8

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The Court of Appeal on Wednesday fixed Feb.8 for to hear  Abdulrasheed Maina’s appeal challenging the judgment of a trial court sentencing him to eight years imprisonment for N2 billion pension fraud

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned  Maina before  Justice Okon Abang of a federal high court, on Oct. 25, 2019.

Maina is charged alongside , his firm, Common Input Property and Investment Ltd, on 12 counts of money laundering.

Abang on Nov. 8 sentenced the former chairperson of the defunct Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), to eight years’ imprisonment for money laundering offences involving N2billion in pension fund.

Maina not satisfied filed an appeal at the appellate court challenging the judgment.

The appeal court slated to be heard on Wednesday was adjourned until Feb. 8 over the inablity of the appellent’s  counsel to follow court guildelines in filing his suit.

The three-member panel headed by Justice Haruna Tsammani fixed the date pointing out that the appellant must comply with the rule of the court.

He said the appellant did not comply with order 19 rule 3 of the court’s direction on filing, adding that the font size was not in compliance with the order.

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” You can not comply with the rules of the court you go back and comply with it” he said.

When the appeal was called,  the appellant’s counsel led by Olusegun Jolaawo,  SAN, told the court they were ready to argue their appeal.

Mr Farouk Abdullahi, EFCC equally told the court he was ready.

Unfortunately,  the panel found out that the appellent did not comply with the rules of the court in  filing the suit.

NAN reports that in that judgment, justice Abang sentenced him to various jail terms ranging from three to eight years, which are to run concurrently.

He was sentenced to three years for count 1, five years for count 2, eight years for count 3, eight years for count 4, two years for count 5, five years for count 6, and eight years in count seven.

He also sentenced him to three years on count 8, five years for count 9, eight years for count 10, three years for count 11 and three years for count 12.

He ordered that the terms of imprisonment shall run concurrently beginning from October 25, 2019, the date he was arraigned.

Justice Abang ordered that Common Input Property and Investment Ltd’s punishment, should be wound up and its assets forfeited to the federal government.

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In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/256/2019, EFCC alleged that Maina used fictitious names to open and operate various bank accounts.

It added that he recruited his relatives that were bankers to operate fake bank accounts through which illicit funds were channelled.

EFCC further alleged that sums of N300million, N500million and N1.5billion were stolen by from pensioners, were deposited in the accounts. (NAN)

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JUDICIARY

REOPENED – Alleged Defilement: Court Admits Medical Director to N50m Bail

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An  Ikeja Sexual Offences  and Domestic Violence Court on Wednesday admitted the Medical Director of Optimal Cancer Care Foundation, Dr Femi Olaleye, charged with alleged  defilement of his 16 year-old wife’s niece to bail in the sum of N50million.

Newsmen report that Justice Ramon Oshodi  admitted the defendant to  bail with two sureties in like, following the adoption of bail application by defense and counter affidavits by prosecution.

Ramon ruled that the sureties must have landed properties in Lagos and the original documents of the properties must be submitted to the chief registrar of the court.

He also said that the defendant must submit his British, Nigerian and other international passports in his possession to the chief registrar of the court.

The judge further ordered the court audile to verify the residential addresses of the sureties.

Ramon, however, ruled that the defendant be remanded in Ikoyi Correctional Centre pendingwhen he meets the conditions of the bail.

The judge adjourned the case until Dec. 19 for commencement of trial.

The defence lead counsel, Mr Babatunde Ogala, SAN, while moving his bail application dated dated Nov. 24 and filed on 25, prayed the court to grant the defendant bail on liberal term.

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Ogala argued that the defendant had had cancer  patients who looked up to him for his service and would not be productive if remanded in prison.

He  also urged the court to use its discretion to grant the defendant bail adding that he appeared voluntarily in court after he had been served.

”I wish to say they the defendant, not withstanding, is presumed innocent until proven otherwise. I wish to infer to a similar  case of Olarewaju Jame. The charged were the same and the circumstances were the same.

“Even in the case of Nnamdi Kalu, who was charged with treason, the court still used its discretion  and granted him bail

“The defendant has reliable  sureties who are his professional colleagues, willing and ready  to put their profession on the line  to stand ad sureties for him.

“He has a leading cancer NGO and he has patients who look up to him.

“In view of this my lord, we urge this  honourable court to grant the defendant bail on liberal term,”

The prosecution team, led by the Director of the Public Prosecution (DPP,) Dr. Babajide Martins, in his counter affidavit dated Nov. 28, argued that the nature of the charge was serious enough  because it attracted life imprisonment.

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Martins argued that the complainant was the first wife of the defendant while the nominal complainant was the niece of the wife.

“My lord, what the prosecution is concerned about is the defendant has capability to travel at very short notice. We urge the court to have the defendant submit his Nigerian passport and British Passport well in the interest of Justice.

“More importantly  my lord, there is need for defence to present exceptional circumstances for the court to grant the defendant bail.

“If my lord is kind enough to grant him bail, we urge the court to be mindful that the defendant is not at flight risk and does not interfere with the prosecution witnesses.

“He should also make himself available for trial,” the prosecutor said.

Newsmen report that Oleleye is charged with a two-count charge of defilement and sexual assault by penetration.

He, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Th prosecution submitted that the the defendant allegedly defiled the survivor by having unlawful sexual intercourse with her.

The defendant was alleged to have  committed the offence between February 2020 and November 2021 on Layi Ogunbambi Close, Maryland, Lagos.

It was alleged that the defendant sexually assaulted the survivor by penetrating her mouth with his penis.

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According to the prosecution, the alleged offence contravened Sections 137 and 261 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2015. (NAN)

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