The Federal High Court in Awka, the Anambra State capital, has set aside its own order sacking the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba.
But the fresh order is stirring up a storm, with legal pundits wondering whether it is not a judicial aberration for a court to be the one reversing itself without a resort to a higher court.
Prof. Chidi Anselm Odinalu, former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), said: “Please, how does a court sit on appeal on its own judgment to set it aside? What is going on with these SANs doing these dreadful things with judges?!”
But the judge of the court justified his action when he said: “The law is settled that any Court of record including the Supreme Court has the inherent jurisdiction to set aside its own Judgment given in any proceeding in which there must have been a fundamental defect such as one which goes to the issue of jurisdiction and competence of the Court
“Such a judgment is a nullity. A person affected by it, is therefore, entitled ex-debito justicae to have it set aside. The court can set it aside suo motu and the person affected may apply by motion and not necessarily by way of Appeal.
“A judgment or order which is a nullity owing to failure to comply with an essential provision such as service of process can be set aside by the court which gave it or made the order.
“The law is trite that the necessity for the requirement of service of originating processes, whether personal or by substituted means to bring to the notice of the defendant in action knowledge of the pending of a suit against him to enable such defendant prepare himself and defend the action appropriately
“I find merit in this application. Accordingly, the judgment of this court delivered on 19th day of May 2023 is hereby set aside for non- service of the originating processes on the 2nd Defendant (the Inspector-General of Police). This is the ruling of this court.”
The Federal High Court upheld the right of Alkali to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution which was not guaranteed by the plaintiff in his application.
It said it was convinced by the depositions of the court bailiff that the IGP was not served the originating summons.
Justice Fatun Riman reversed the court’s earlier judgment following an application by IGP’s counsel, Abdullahi Abdulhakeem Ago against a previous ruling in favour of a plaintiff, Okechukwu Nwafor
On May 19, 2023, the court declared that the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, is an illegal occupant of the office of IGP.
Justice Riman insisted then that Baba’s continued stay in office was against the clear provisions of the Police Act, 2020, saying it is “unlawful and unconstitutional”.
Subsequently the Police chief asked the court to set aside the judgment because the subject matter had been determined by another Federal High Court presided over by Justice J.K. Omotosho in suit FHC/ABJ/CS/31/2023.
He asked that the court should quash its judgment due to non-service of the originating processes on him.
The court upheld the arguments of the Inspector-General of Police in a 17-page ruling on June 15, 2023.