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Friday, March 16, 2012

1999 Constitution: N’Assembly seeks dismissal of Soyinka’s suit

Prof. Wole Soyinka
National Assembly has filed an objection to a suit by Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and Fred Agbeyegbe, seeking a Federal High Court, Lagos to declare that the amended 1999 Constitution is not an act of the people.
The Clerk of the National Assembly, in a written address dated March 15, 2012, filed by Mr. Friday Akoko, urges the presiding judge, Justice James Tsoho, to strike out the suit on the grounds of a lack of jurisdiction.
The plaintiffs had instituted the suit in 2009 seeking the production of a constitution that is  “a true reflection of the peoples’ opinion” emanating from “a proper referendum”.
They maintain that the constitution is “patently and inherently defective” because it allegedly does not reflect the opinion of the people of Nigeria.
They are therefore asking the court to order that the draft constitution prepared by the Peoples’ National Conference in August 2006 and the recommendations of the National Political Reform Conference of 2006 be subjected to “a proper referendum” of Nigerians within 18 months.
In the alternative, they asked the court to order that the 1999 Constitution be subjected to such referendum in order to seek the opinion of the people of Nigeria.
Among the five respondents in the suit, only the Clerk of the National Assembly was represented by a counsel at Thursday’s  proceedings, and had so far, filed an address challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Other defendants in the suit are the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; the Attorney-General of the Federation; the President of the Senate; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Akoko maintained that the plaintiffs ought to have filed the suit in Abuja Judicial Division of the court, “where the 1999 Constitution was promulgated and  all the defendants reside and carry on their business”.
He contended that the plaintiffs had demonstrated a misconception “as to the proper forum” to commence the action by filing the suit at the Lagos Division of the court.
According to him, such development has robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Counsel for Soyinka and Agbeyegbe, Mrs. Folashade Bankole, had also in her written address, insisted that the Federal High Court has only one jurisdiction.
She faulted the argument canvassed by Akoko, saying that could not be a basis for dismissing her suit.
Tsoho adjourned hearing in the issue of jurisdiction to June 6, 2012.

The name of the late Biafra warlord, Chief Chukwuemeka Odimegwu-Ojukwu, who was until his death a plaintiff in the suit, was at the last adjourned date on February 9, 2012 struck out from the suit.
The Punch

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