The legal face-off between suspended Nigerian Bar Association General Secretary Joyce Oduah and the association peaks today at the Federal High Court as parties go for each other’s jugular.
CITY LAWYER recalls that Justice A. R. Mohammed had last week declined to grant Oduah’s prayer for interim reliefs, leading to her exclusion from superintending the NBA Secretariat at the recently concluded NBA National Executive Council (NBA-NEC) Meeting which held last Sunday on the sidelines of the Annual General Conference.
The NBA-NEC had brushed aside the court case to ratify Oduah’s suspension by the National Officers, even as it fell short of impeaching her, citing the lawsuit. The meeting also ratified the appointment of Ms. Uche Nwadialo as Acting General Secretary.
Justice Mohammed had however adjourned the matter to today for hearing on Oduah’s Motion on Notice, the court having ordered her to serve NBA with the processes.
Among the defendants are the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association; NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata; other National Officers and the Inspector-General of Police. The ex-parte application had sought to restrain the NBA and other defendants from giving effect to Oduah’s suspension by the NBA National Executive Committee among other reliefs.
CITY LAWYER had in an exclusive report noted the suspension of Oduah by a unanimous decision of the NBA-NEC, even as the National Officers also vowed to drag her to the National Executive Council for removal over alleged gross misconduct.
Oduah’s Counsel, Mr. Ayotunde Ogunleye (who stood in for Lead Counsel, Mr. Muritala Abdul-rasheed) had informed the court of the pendency of an ex-parte application dated and filed on 16th August, 2022. He sought to move the application.
In opposing the application, Mr. Solomon Umoh (SAN) and Mr. Godwin Omoaka (SAN) announced their appearances on behalf of the Incorporated Trustees of the Nigerian Bar Association and Mr. Olumide Akpata respectively, the 1st and 2nd Defendants, and informed the court that the matter was brought to their attention through social media.
Omoaka told the court that a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear Oduah’s suit as well as the ex-parte application had been filed on behalf of the two defendants.
He argued that the law is settled that where an objection to the jurisdiction of the court is raised, the court has an obligation to hear the objection first before attending to any other matter or application.
Omoaka then urged the court to set down the Preliminary Objection for hearing and ahead of hearing of the applicant’s ex-parte application.
Ogunleye however objected to Omoaka’s submissions, arguing that the business of the day was the hearing of the ex-parte application. He stated that the rules of court and judicial precedents are clear that where a defendant is present at the hearing of an ex-parte motion, he can only be seen and not heard.
Replying on points of law, Omoaka distinguished the authorities cited by Oduah’s Counsel from the case at hand and urged the court to first set down the preliminary objection for hearing.
In a short ruling, the court agreed with Omoaka that where a preliminary objection is raised, the court has a duty to hear it first. Justice Mohammed however held that the business of the day was the hearing of the ex-parte motion.
The court further held that it would exercise its discretion to hear the ex-parte application and set down the preliminary objection for hearing at a later date. This paved the way for Ogunleye to move the ex-parte application.
Ogunleye prayed the court for various injunctive and preservative reliefs.
In its ruling on the ex-parte motion, the court observed that the reliefs sought were the same as the reliefs sought in Oduah’s Motion on Notice. It declined to grant the prayers and ordered that the defendants be put on notice.
Abdul-Rasheed had confirmed the ruling to CITY LAWYER, saying: “The court has directed that we put the respondents on notice and come back on Tuesday.”
According to a Motion Ex-parte obtained by CITY LAWYER, the plaintiff is seeking “AN ORDER OF INTERIM INJUNCTION OF THIS HONOURABLE COURT, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice, restraining the Defendants by themselves, through their officers, servants, privies, agents or any other persons(s), agencies or individuals deriving power, command, authority, instruction or directives from it from acting or relying on or continuing to rely on, act on, implement, give effect to, interfere with or do anything to the prejudice of the Plaintiff/Applicant based on the decision document titled: “Resolution of the Meeting of the National Executive Committee of the Nigerian Bar Association held on 15 August, 2022” wherein the Plaintiff/Applicant was purportedly suspended from office as the General Secretary of the 1st Defendant/Respondent by the 3rd to 11th Defendants/Respondents.”
Oduah also prayed for an order “restraining the Defendants by themselves, through their officers, servants, privies, agents or any other persons(s), agencies or individuals deriving power, command, authority, instruction or directives from them from suspending/removing the Plaintiff/Applicant as the General Secretary of the 1st Defendant/Respondent (the Nigerian Bar Association).”
While urging the court to bar Ms. Uche Nwadialo from acting in her stead, the plaintiff also prayed for “AN ORDER OF INTERIM INJUNCTION pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice restraining the 2nd to 11th Respondents, either by themselves, their servants, privies, officers, agents, cronies or howsoever from further harassing, threatening, intimidating, assaulting and/or attacking the Plaintiff/Applicant for any reason whatsoever.”
She also prayed for police protection should the court grant the injunction, urging the court to grant “AN ORDER directing the 12th Defendant/Respondent (Inspector General of Police), and/or other officers under his Command and/or the Commissioner of Police, and all other officers as the Commissioner of Police may designate and Court Bailiffs to assist the Plaintiff/Applicant in the discharge of her duties as the General Secretary of the 1st Defendant/Respondent together with all other rights of whatever kind deriving from or incidental to any of the foregoing orders and also in execution of the orders herein made.”
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