The Berom Communities in Plateau on Tuesday applied to the Federal High Court sitting in Jos to join the Federal Government as co-defendants in a N50 billion case filed by a group of people.
Nigeria News Agency reports that the group led by one Ardo Ruwa Inuwa, on behalf of select victims of Plateau crises, alleged that several of their kinsmen were killed aside 1000 cattle, unspecified number of houses and other property lost to several crises right from 2010.
Joined in the suit, in which they are demanding for N50 billion as general damages, is the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as defendant.
But when the case came up before the presiding judge, Justice Dorcas Agishi, on Tuesday for hearing, the Berom communities, through their led counsel, Mr Edward Pwajok (SAN), filed a motion on notice to join the federal government in the case as co-defendants.
Pwajok told the Court that “as Berom people, we have a stake in this case having been mentioned and tagged as the perpetrators of the alleged killings and destruction which informed the institution of the case.
“My Lord, this motion on notice is brought in pursuance to section 9 Rule 5 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and the inherent jurisdiction of this Court,” he argued.
But Mr M.M. Nuruddeen, Plaintiffs lead Counsel, opposed the application and urged the Court to dismiss it for lack of merit.
Nuruddeen said, “My Lord we oppose this application in strong terms and urge your Lordship to dismiss it because it is absolutely devoid of merit.”
“If your Lordship look deeply into the motion or application, you will note that not even one relief is being sought against the plaintiffs; so it is totally empty and void and should be dismissed forthwith,” he pleaded.
Pwajok, however, objected to that line of argument and described the allegations raised in the case that “put the Berom people in very precarious position, having been accused as the perpetrators of the killings and destruction in the crises in Jos South, Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Governments.”
“May I humbly submit that such a strong and wild allegations that it was the Berom people that killed Fulanis and destroyed their cattle and other property raised serious questions that must be answered whether it is the Berom people that carried the acts.
“My Lord, those questions must be answered before the reliefs are granted or denied
“The fear of the Berom people of such allegations is how the world will look at us and its eventual consequences to our survival and existence.
“We hereby urge your Lordship to discountenance the objection raised by the Plaintiffs’ Counsel and grant our application to join the federal government as co-defendants in this matter, “ Pwajok pleaded.
Also speaking, Mr Abdullahi Inuwa, the lead Counsel to the Federal Government, said “on our part, we are not objecting to the application raised.”
Justice Agishi then adjourned the case to Feb. 12, 2020, for ruling on the motion and continuation of hearing.
Edited by: Abdullahi Yusuf
Buhari congratulates Plateau Dep. Gov. Tyoden at 70
President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the Deputy Governor of Plateau, Prof. Sonni Tyoden on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
The President, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Tuesday rejoiced with his family, friends, associates, the government and people of Plateau.
According to him, Tyoden has distinguished himself as a grassroots politician, former university teacher and Vice-Chancellor.
Buhari urged the deputy governor to remain committed in contributing to the development of his state under the All Progressives Congress (APC) and be a role-model to his numerous former students.
He prayed God to endow the septuagenarian with robust health and longer life as he continues to serve his state, country and humanity.
Edited By: Felix Ajide
Commercial disputes: Stakeholders canvass for virtual Court hearings for speedy resolution
Stakeholders on Tuesday called for the amendment of relevant rules and regulations to allow virtual Court hearings for speedy resolution of commercial disputes in Nigeria.
They made the call during a virtual dialogue organised by the Nigeria Competitiveness Project (NICOP).
Participants also said that it would boost ease of doing business in Nigeria.
NICOP is an European Union (EU) co-financed initiative under the West African Competitiveness Programme, aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of Nigeria and to enhance it’s integration into the regional and International trading system.
Ms Katrine Thomsen, Head of Economic Section, EU delegate, said Nigeria is a leading trading partner with the EU.
She said that Nigeria’s partnership with the EU is highly cherished and had continued to improve daily.
“To support that improvement and trading partnership with Nigeria and West Africa in general, the EU has committed 125 million Euros to improving the competitiveness of West African economies,”she said
Thomsen said that the objective of NICOP is to stimulate and improve competitiveness of Nigeria in some selected value chains and to support the business climate in the country.
She said that a proactive legal system is critical to improving investment and business climate.
According to her, if we must diversify the economy and improve the country’s ranking in the ease of doing business, reforming the court system especially for contract enforcement and commercial dispute settlement is critical.
“We welcome NICOP and other stakeholders, joining voices with the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osibanjo who recently advocated for new set of directives to enable virtual Court proceeding in the country.
”I am sure that the Supreme Court of Nigeria had ruled and confirm the legality of virtual Court hearing.
“To this end, Nigeria is demonstrating leadership in the new normal,”she said.
Also, the Head of Programmes, NICOP, Mr Markus Wauschkuhn, said that virtual Court hearing would strengthen Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and address key issues in business areas.
Wauschkuhn said that the idea is to improve the business environment and investment climate in the country.
According to him, NICOP had supported capacity development for commercial dispute resolution in focal states of Kano, Plateau, Ogun, Kaduna.
The Managing Partner, Law Future Partners (LFP), Mr Elvis Asia, said that the COVID-19 experience had presented an opportunity for Nigeria to fix the state of commercial dispute resolution which take almost forever.
In a paper titled “Opportunity for Contract Enforcement and Commercial Disputes Settlement Reform”, Asia said that it has serious negative effects on investors.
He said that transfer of Judges and calling off of hearing which contribute to the delay in serving justice would taken care off by virtual hearing.
Asia said virtual hearing would make recording easier, eliminate time wastage and corruption and fast-track quick delivery of judgment.
According to him, more members of the public can participate in any case of their interest from anywhere in the world.
He, however said that though there is no express provision for virtual Court hearing in the Constitution, it empowers Heads of Courts to make regulation for effective proceedings.
The legal practitioner said that there was need to amend the Evidence Act to clearly give credence to electronic copies of documents in the court.
He also called for the creation of a commercial Court division with requisite technology and skill acquisition for legal and paralegal practitioners.
In her contribution, Justice Olutoyin Ipaye of the Lagos State Judiciary, said that virtual court hearing had come to stay.
She recommended that virtual Court hearing should not be limited time-bound cases but should be expanded to cover all disputes.
Ipaye said that virtual hearing has tremendous advantages that will further enhance the justice system in the country.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mrs A. J Offiah, said that life is becoming more virtual than physical, saying that there is the need to address disputes virtually.
Offiah, who is the founder and principal partner of OBRA Legal, said that many heads of courts were already tilting towards virtual hearing.
She said there was need to create link between the database of all relevant government agencies with the Judiciary to enable easy access to authoritative documents.
Edited By: Remi Koleoso/Sadiya Hamza
Gov. Lalong celebrates Rochas @ 58
Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau has congratulated the former Governor of Imo, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, on his 58th birthday.
Lalong, in a congratulatory message issued by his Director of Press and Public Affairs, Dr Makut Macham, on Tuesday in Jos, described Okorocha as compassionate.
He said the former governor was a kind and pragmatic politician who had deployed his resources and opportunities in life to serving the people.
He said Okorocha had endeared himself to the poor and vulnerable across the country, through his acts of generosity and sacrifices even before he got into public office.
The governor noted the contributions of the celebrant to the growth and development of Nigeria’s democracy, as well as the All Progressives Congress (APC) through his commitment and consistency with the truth.
He particularly commended Okorocha’s contributions to the development of Plateau in both economic, education and other sectors, saying he had continued to maintain his affinity with the State which he considers his home.
While wishing him well, Lalong urged Okorocha not to be deterred by challenges in the task of nation building, as his wealth of experience and knowledge would continue to be required.
Edited By: Abdullahi Yusuf
Ejama-Ebubu community prays Supreme Court to reject Shell’s request to reopen N17bn Judgment
The Ejama-Ebubu community in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to reject request by Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited set aside a N17 billion judgment entered against in 2019.
The apex court on Jan. 11, 2019 upheld the judgment of the Court of Appeal which had slammed N17 billion in damages against the oil giant for oil spillage in Ejama-Ebubu in Tai Eleme Local Government Area of Rivers State.
The plea was in a preliminary objection filed by Chief Isaac Agbara and nine others to the application by Shell asking the apex court to set aside its earlier judgment in the matter.
The respondents arguing the preliminary objection through their lead counsel, Chief Lucius Nwosu SAN, described Shell’s request as scandalous and an affront to the finality of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
Nwosu while urging the court to dismiss Shell’s application for being incompetent said that the Supreme Court cannot sit on appeal in its own judgment.
The senior lawyer further argued that the action of the oil giant was a deliberate abuse of court process with a weighty request based on 23 grounds.
He further contended that the Supreme Court by its unanimous judgment of Jan. 11, 2019 put an end to the over 30-year-old legal tussle on the oil spillage suffered by the respondents and their people in the oil producing region.
Nwosu drew the attention of the apex court panel to a letter of the Supreme Court in which the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, while reacting to a clarification to the January 11, 2019 judgment, made it clear that the appeal by Shell Petroleum had become spent.
He further informed the court that the judgment being sought to be set aside by the oil company had already been partly executed with over N1 billion recovered by the respondents, adding that section 235 of the 1999 Constitution makes the Supreme Court a final court in the land and that no appeal can be entertained from the Supreme Court decision.
He, therefore, pleaded with the apex court to reject the invitation by Shell to make the court sit as an appellate court in its own judgment so as not to make the court eat its words.
He also noted that the same shell that is reluctant to pay damages to Nigerian victims of its oil spillage had in similar situations pay over 206 million dollars to victims in Mexico.
But Shell Petroleum company through its team of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, described the opposition of the respondents as frivolous because it has no bearing with jurisdictional issue.
Olanipekun contended that what the respondents tagged a judgment was a ruling and not a final judgment.
He submitted that Shell’s request has a judicial precedence, adding that the oil giant would not have come back to the apex court to seek for review of its judgment if there was no precedent.
The senior lawyer faulted the claim that the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in its Jan. 11, 2019 decision, arguing that there cannot be a dismissal when a matter had not been heard on merit.
He therefore pleaded with the apex court to dismiss the preliminary objection to its client’s application for judgment review.
The five-member panel led by Justice Olabode Rhodes-Vivour after listening to the submissions of parties to the preliminary objection adjourned until Nov. 27 for ruling.
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza