* Advises parties to refrain from taking actions that may affect the trial
Alex Enumah in Abuja
A vacation judge of the Federal High Court Tuesday approved service of court processes on the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Inspector General of Police (IG) and the Department of State Services (DSS) and others through substituted services in the suit seeking to stop the forceful or illegal removal of Dr Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate.
The plaintiffs, Senators Rafiu Ibrahim Adebayo representing Kwara South Senatorial District and Isa Hamma Misau, Bauchi Central Senatorial District respectively had dragged the AGF, IG, DSS and eight others before the Federal High Court, Abuja over alleged plans to remove Saraki as Senate President on account of his defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
But the vacation judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, while delivering ruling on an exparte application filed by the plaintiffs ordered that the AGF, IG and DSS who are 10, 11 and 12 respondents in the suit respectively, be served through courier services, while the 1st to 8th respondents be served through the National Assembly.
Justice Dimgba, who also ordered for the accelerated hearing of the suit, however cautioned parties against taking any steps that would render the trial nugatory, pending the hearing and determination of the main suit.
Other defendants in the matter were the Senate, the Senate President, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawal (Senate Leader), Senator Bala Ibn Nallah (Deputy Senate Leader), Senator Emma Buacha (Deputy Minority Leader), Clerk of the Senate and Deputy Clerk of the Senate.
When the matter came up Tuesday, counsel to the plaintiffs, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), told the court that he had a motion exparte dated August 27, 2018 and filed same day.
The motion exparte, he said, was brought pursuant to Order 26 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules and is seeking for an order of interim injunction (in reliefs 1, 2, and 3), restraining the defendants from taking any untoward action or move to forcefully remove or impeach the Senate President from office.
Reliefs 4 and 5 prayed the court for an order of substituted service of court processes on the defendants.
Etiaba argued that in the event the court was constrained to grant reliefs 1, 2, and 3, “Our alternative prayer is for the court to make preservatory orders in order to protect the res (subject matter) of the suit”.
According to him, the preservatory orders will take away their fears, stressing that under section 6 of the Constitution, the court has inherent jurisdiction to make such an order.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Dimgba held that in respect of reliefs 1, 2, and 3, which are orders of interim injunction, “I believe the proper order to make is an order of accelerated hearing of the suit so that the court can consider and determine the merits of the substantive case expeditiously”.
“Even though reliefs 1, 2, and 3, are not granted, needless to say, parties have been enjoined to respect the authority of the court and the integrity of the judicial process and should not take steps that will render the matter nugatory,” he said.
Furthermore, the court granted reliefs 4 and 5, and directed substituted service of court processes, the originating summon and motion for injunction on the 1st to 8th defendants through the clerk of the National Assembly.
The court subsequently adjourned to September 6, for accelerated hearing of the originating summons and urged counsel to take necessary steps to serve all the parties with the processes.
In the main suit, the plaintiffs are praying for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 4th to 11th defendants, jointly and severally either by themselves, their agents, servants or privies, assign however so called from unlawfully removing the 2nd defendant as the President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The plaintiffs are also seeking for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 9th to 10th defendants from unlawfully interfering with the lawful legislative duties of the 2nd defendant as the President of the Senate of the Federal Repubtic of Nigeria, until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 10th to 11th defendants from harassing, hounding intimidating, arresting or detaining the 2nd defendant in respect of the lawful exercise of his duties pursuant to Section 50(1)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as attended), until the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
More so, the plaintiffs want the court to make an order directing the parties in the suit to maintain the status quo pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
In a similar suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/843/2018, filed by Senator Rafiu Adebayo against the Senate and 11 others, the court adjourned to September 13 for hearing.
Specifically, the second suit is seeking an order restraining the defendants from forcefully and illegally reopening the senate chamber.
The court however adjourned hearing and directed parties to file in their processes.
While Magaji Mahmud (SAN) and Etiaba represented the plaintiff, T. D. Agbe, David Igbodo and S. Azi represented the AGF, IG and DSS respectively.