From Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A fresh suit instituted by Senator Buruji Kashamu against the federal government seeking to stop his extradition to the United States of America for trial in an alleged hard drug trafficking offence in America has been adjourned to June 27, 2019, by a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Justice Okon Abang who was billed to adjudicate on the matter fixed June 27 as fresh hearing date following the absence of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) or his legal representative in court.
The suit is one of the three new cases instituted by the senator who is praying for an order of the court to prohibit the federal government from giving effect to the extradition request of the American government on him.
When the matter came up on Thursday, counsel to Kashamu, Mr. John Olusola Odubela SAN, informed the judge that the matter which bothers on the fundamental human right of the senator was for hearing and that he was surprised that the AGF was not in Court and was not represented by a lawyer.
However, counsel to the National Drug law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Mr. Pius Gande told the court that the case was transferred from Justice Ahmed Mohammed to the new court and that the AGF was not notified of the transfer and was not issued with a hearing notice.
Gande argued that the issue of hearing notice is fundamental and that the court should endeavour to indulge the AGF to be served with hearing notice to enable his presence or legal representation in court.
He specifically said that the principle of fair hearing would be breached if the court should go ahead in hearing the matter in the absence of the AGF who is the first respondent in the suit.
The NDLEA lawyer submitted that the bottom line of the absence of the AGF was that he was not aware that the matter had been slated for hearing this Thursday.
On the part of the NDLEA, Gande submitted that he became aware of the transfer of the case to Justice Abang during one of his visits to the court, adding that his presence was out of respect for the court and not that he was issued with hearing notice as required by law.
“The issue of hearing notice is fundamental and must not be toyed with. We want this matter to be expeditiously heard on its merit so that we can arrive at a just conclusion and as it is now, it is in the best interest of justice that the AGF be allowed to come in through issuance of hearing notice and if he fails, the matter can go on in his absence.
In his ruling Justice Abang disclosed that he adjourned the case three times in his chamber due to the volume of work in his court, cross-checked the record of proceedings and discovered that the AGF, was not notified of the transfer of the case to him and hearing notice not issued to his office.
The Judge agreed with Gande that hearing notice is a fundamental issue as it bothers on fair hearing and subsequently adjourned the matter till June 27th for hearing.
The judge further said that no court of law will proceed with any matter until all the parties have been duly served with hearing notice adding that any court that proceeds without hearing notice to parties is embarking on a nullity
”It is clear that the AGF is not served with the hearing notice and this condition cannot be waived by any party because its absence will render the proceedings a nullity
“As for me I don’t want to work in vain, AGF must be served with hearing notice for this matter to proceed as required by law and there must be a proof of service”.
Although counsel to Kashamu had wanted the matter to proceed in the absence of the AGF, the court rejected the move and instead opted for an adjournment.
Kashamu had sued the AGF and the NDLEA for the enforcement of his fundamental rights, praying the court to stop the two respondents from extraditing him to America for a hard drug offence trial.