Tiv-Jukun Crisis: Court Adjourns Suit against Panel Indefinitely


* Returns case file to CJ

By Alex Enumah

Justice Ahmed Mohammed on Wednesday adjourned indefinitely hearing in the suit challenging the constitution of a panel of inquiry into the Tiv and Jukun tribal clashes in Taraba State.

The Incorporated Trustees of Mzough U Tiv and five others had dragged the Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku; Chairman of the Panel of Inquiry and former Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Kumai Aka’ahs; heads of security agencies and others to court over alleged bias composition of the panel.

Justice Mohammed had last week Wednesday summoned the respondents to appear before the court on August 26, 2020 to show cause why they should not be restrained from continuing with investigations into the Tiv/Jukun crisis in Taraba State.

The judge made the order while ruling in an exparte application seeking to stop the Commission of Inquiry into the Crises Between Tiv and Their Neighbouring Communities in Taraba State and Other Related Matters, from proceeding further in its assignment.

The judge further ordered that court processes and hearing notices be served on all the respondents and adjourned till August 26 for hearing.

When the matter came up on Wednesday, the Taraba State governor and the state, represented by Mr Ibrahim Abdul (SAN), informed Justice Mohammed that he had filed a Notice of Preliminary Objection against the suit.

Abdul announced that his clients are challenging the jurisdiction of the court on the grounds that the suit ought to be heard in Taraba State.

Other respondents also claimed that they have filed separate objections to the suit and that court processes have not been fully served on all parties involved.

One of the parties, the Chief of Air Staff, in a separate motion on notice, prayed the court to strike out his name from the list of respondents on the grounds that he had nothing to do with the probe panel.

Faced with the problem of incomplete service of court processes, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN), applied for a short adjournment for definite hearing of the matter.

He predicated his prayer for short adjournment on the grounds that the suit has to do with the enforcement of fundamental rights of his clients.

Besides, the senior lawyer also withdrew the motion on notice seeking an injunction order against the continued sitting by the panel, adding that the motion was withdrawn on the strength of the information that the Justice Kumai Aka’ahs Panel concluded its public hearing on Tuesday, August 25.

In his ruling, Justice Mohammed struck out the motion on notice having not been opposed by respondents in the matter.

He however declined to give definite date for the hearing of the matter, but instead adjourned indefinitely on the grounds that his vacation period ends Thursday, August 27.

He added that the case file will be remitted to the Chief Judge (CJ), Justice John Tsoho, for further administrative direction in the matter.

Other applicants in the suit are: President General, Mzough U Tiv and Rtd CP, Mr Ihiagh Iorbee, Hon. David Uchiv, Hon. Jacob Gbagede, Hon. Julius Kwaghkar and Dr Yakubu Agbidye.

The applicants, in the suit, are accusing the governor of “showing open hatred for the Tiv tribe in Taraba” and using his office in collaboration with the security chiefs, “to forcefully/genocidally evict Tiv tribesmen from Taraba State”.

They further claimed that the governor profiled the Tiv tribe and isolated them for adversity, when it failed to mention the other “communities” in the instrument setting up the Commission of Inquiry into the crises “between the Tiv and their neighbouring communities”.

While the applicants also accused the panel of profiling the Tiv tribe, they noted that by its composition, the panel is likely to breach the fundamental right of fair hearing of the applicants.

The security agencies on the order hand were accused of “aiding and abetting the forceful removal of the applicants and their tribesmen from their ancestral homes and other places of residence in Taraba State”.

In the main suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CS/955/2020, the applicants prayed the court to declare that the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry amounts to a flagrant breach of their fundamental rights as well as their tribesmen.

They also prayed for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the first to third respondents (Ishaku, Taraba State Government and Attorney General (AG), “from receiving and or acting on any report/resolutions of the fourth-12th respondents, arrived at in the exercise of the powers conferred on them by the instrument setting up the fourth respondent”.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 13th-19th respondents, either by themselves or through their officers and men, from aiding and abetting or continuing to aid and abet the discriminatory policies of the first and second respondents against the applicants/Tiv tribe in Taraba State” and “such other orders as this court may seem fit to make in the circumstances”.