Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has rejected an ex-parte motion seeking to, among others, restrain President Muhammadu Buhari, Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS) and others from taking further actions against some judges recently arrested by the DSS.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, in a bench ruling yesterday, refused to grant ex-parte a request for an order restraining the defendants from re-arresting or taking any “untoward action” against five of the eight judges whose houses were recently raided by DSS’ operatives.
The defendants are President Buhari; DG, DSS, Lawal Daura; the DSS; the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The motion was filed by a lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje. He specifically sought an order of interim injunction restraining “the respondents, their agents, servants, privies, men, officers or anybody deriving authority from them by whatever name called from further arresting, intimidating, arresting, inviting, seizing or taking any untoward action against the arrested and affected honourable judges and judicial officers pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
He explained, in a supporting affidavit, that his motion was informed by his apprehension that the judges could be charged in court before the conclusion of the substantive suit he filed, challenging the propriety of the DSS’ invasion of the judges’ houses, their arrest and detention.
Justice Kolawole, after listening to the argument of Ogungbeje’s lawyer, Ayo Ogundele, said he must first resolve a number of issues, particularly the plaintiff’s locus standi, in an inter-party hearing before making a pronouncement on the prayer as contained in the motion.
The judge directed that the plaintiff’s motion on notice, seeking similar prayer, be served on the respondents.
Justice Kolawole ordered President Buhari, Daura; the DSS; the AGF and IGP to appear in court on the next adjourned date (November 15) to show cause why the interim restraining order sought by the plaintiff should not be granted.
The judge ordered that the plaintiff’s motion ex-parte and on notice be served on the respondents and they shall be entitled to respond within seven days of being served.
Ogungbeje had on October 14 filed the substantive suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/809/16, arguing that the arrest of the judges without recourse to the NJC was unlawful and amounted to humiliating them.
Ogungbeje, who sued on behalf of five of the judges who are still in service, said the DSS operations violated the rights of judges under sections 33, 34, 35, 36, and 41 of the Constitution.
The judges are Sylvester Ngwuta, John Okoro, Adeniyi Ademola, Muazu Pindiga and Nnamdi Dimgba.
The plaintiff is seeking 10 reliefs, including N50bn against the defendants as “general and exemplary damages” and N2m as cost of the suit.
Ogungbeje equally wants an order compelling the DSS to return to the judges the sums of money recovered from them.
He also seeks perpetual injunction restraining the defendants from arresting, inviting, intimidating, or harassing the judges with respect to the case.
The plaintiff is, among others, contending that the raid on the residences of the judges and their arrest was unconstitutional. The Nation