The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday ordered the consolidation of 12 suits filed last year in respect of the Senate’s controversial refusal to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the presidency’s insistence that he remains in office in an acting capacity.
Eight of the cases are said to be praying for Magu’s removal from office following his rejection by the Senate, while the four others are said to be praying for the court’s order validating his continued stay in office.
Justice Binta Nyako made the order of consolidation in a ruling on an application moved on Monday by the Solicitor-General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata.
Apata represents President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, both joined as separate parties in most of the suits.
He argued that the application premised on the provisions of Order 11 and 26 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009, sought the consolidation of the suits in order to avoid conflicting judgments from different judges of the court.
Magu’s lawyer, Mr. Wahab Shittu, also moved similar application which was also granted on Monday.
One of the 12 consolidated suits filed by a lawyer, Mr. Wale Balogun, had before Monday, been heard and adjourned for judgment by the court.
Balogun, who appeared for himself, on Monday, urged the judge to deliver judgment in his case and should not allow the request by the AGF office for the consolidation of the rest of the suits to cause further delay.
Balogun alleged that the letter by the AGF was aimed at “arresting” the judgment.
But Apata debunked the allegation, saying the AGF had, long ago, sent a letter dated July 5, 2017 to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court requesting the consolidation of the suit.
He said the then Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta (retd), on August 3, 2017 acknowledged the AGF’s letter requesting that the parties to the suit exercise patience to enable the court to take steps.
Apata said he had in another later dated January 29, 2018 wrote a reminder letter to the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Abdu Kafarati, who took over from Auta.
“So the issue of arresting judgment does not even arise. We were waiting for the directive of the Chief Judge. But it seemed there was a breakdown in communication between the court and the AGF,” Apata said.
Justice Nyako agreed with Apata that the AGF office could not be blamed, also noting that the information for the consolidation of the suits from the Chief Judge only reached her after Balogun’s case had been heard.
The judge therefore reopened Balogun’s case to enable the President and the AGF, both represented by Apata to make their input to the suit.
Other lawyers who appeared for the various parties, including Mr. Innocent Da’agba who represented the Senate, did not oppose the request for consolidation.
The judge then ordered the consolidation of the 11 suits with the one filed by Balogun.
She fixed June 27 for mention of the cases directing that every lawyer must before then file all the necessary papers.
She noted that the date for the definite hearing of the case would be fixed when all parties appeared on June 27 and thereafter judgment would be delivered in a date in the new legal year that would commence in September.
The consolidated suits include, FHC/YL/CS/14/2017, between Barrister Bello Bakari v. Hon. Attorney General of the Federation &3 ors, holden at Yola Judicial Division; FHC/ABJ/CS/278/2017‚ between Abubakar Sani v. The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, holden at Abuja Judicial Division (before Justice A.R. Mohammed); and FHC/ABJ/CS/318/17‚ between Jibrin Samuel Okutepa (SAN) v. the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & 4 ors, holden at Abuja Judicial Division (before justice G.O Kolawole).
The rest are:
*FHC/ABJ/CS/227/2OI7‚ Ahmed Tijani Yusuf, Esq & anor v. Ibrahim Magu & 5 ors, holden at Abuja Judicial Division (before Justice A.R. Mohammed)
*FHC/ABJ/CS/374/17‚ Lady (Barr) Chidimma Udebani v. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria &. ors, holden at Abuja ludicial Division (before justice A.R. Mohammed)
*FHC/ABJ/CS/378/17‚ The lncorporated Trustees of Justice Mission International v. Attorney General of the Federation, holden at Abuja Judicial Division (before justice A.R. Mohammed)
*FHC/KN/CS/S9/ZOl7, Barrister Ali A. Jamilu v. President, Federal Republic of Nigeria & 4 ors, (before justice A.R. Mohammed).
*FHC/ABJ/CS/296/17, Emmanuel Esero v. Ibrahim Magu, holden at Abuja Judicial Division (before justice A.R. Mohammed)
*FHC/ABJ/CS/225/2017‚ Registered Trustees of African Patriotic Youth Assembly v. Mr. Ibrahim Magu &6 ors, holden at Abuja Judicial Division (before justice A.R. Mohammed) Suit No. FHC/ABI/CS/8OZ/l7
*Wale Balogun v. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria & 4 ors holden at the Abuja Judicial.