Justice Lewis Allagoa of the Federal High Court on Tuesday morning in Kano dismissed a suit challenging the tenure of Tunde Fowler, Executive
Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS.
Justice Allagoa struck out the suit when he upheld the preliminary objection filed by Paul Erokoro SAN, counsel to Fowler, that Stanley Okwara, the plaintiff, has no locus standi to file the suit.
The judge came to this conclusion Tuesday after he reviewed, for over an hour, all the legal authorities cited by the plaintiff and defender counsels.
Justice Allagoa said he “cannot see how the rights of the plaintiff (Stanley Okwara has been rightly or wrongly affected” by the non-appointment of the Executive Chairman, FIRS after August 15. “In
He added, “the plaintiff said he is an unemployed legal practitioner. How specifically that affects his rights to file this suit is not disclosed”.
The judge agreed with Paul Erokoro SAN, Fowler’s counsel that Okwara has no cause of action and that it was fatal to his suit that he didn’t file a pre-action notice to the court, as required by the Federal Inland Revenue Establishment Act 2007.
Said Justice Allagoa: “I agree with the first defendant that the plaintiff ought to have served the defendant with a pre-action notice. Learned SAN asked the court to strike out the suit. I so hold”.
The judge also upheld Erokoro’s submission that the suit should be struck out as there is no “justiciable cause of action. ’Ï uphold the preliminary objection of the first defendant and his plea that the plaintiff has no justiciable cause of action. The suit is hereby
Almost immediately, Ike Odume, who also represented Fowler in court sprang to his feet to salute the forthrightness of the court.
Said Odume: “My Lord, we thank you for being forthright in this matter. Thank you for doing justice. It cannot be less. I have been following this court from Enugu. I know you will always do justice. Thank you.
“My Lord, we will be asking for costs. We have come all the way from Abuja, three times because of this matter. We will be asking for costs.
Justice Allagoa however overruled Odume: “Don’t kill a fly with asledgehammer. Parties should bear their costs” he held.
Johnmarry Jideobi’, counsel to Okwara was not in court. Barrister A. Issa represented him.
About a forthnight ago, Fowler’s team led by Erokoro, supported by Odume; and counsel to the Attorney General of the Federation—the second defendant in the suit T. A. Ghazalli, in a preliminary objection, asked the Federal High Court judge to strike Okwara’s suit
After hearing all the parties including the preliminary objections and counter affidavits of the defendant, the presiding Judge, Justice Lewis-Allagoa, adjourned to Friday last week for ruling.
The Court had a fortnight ago ordered Fowler to appear before it to show cause, why he should not be sacked for overstaying his tenure which expired on August 18, 2019.
In the originating summon with Suit No FHC/KN/CS/141/2019, the FIRS Chairman was dragged to Court over his continued stay in office after the expiration of tenure.
The Plaintiff filed the suit against Fowler on September 18, 2019 and also joined the Attorney General of the Federation as the second defendant.
The two defendants were given 30 days to explain why Fowler who was appointed on August 20, 2015, had not ceased to hold office as the Chairman of FIRS in accordance with the “decision of the Supreme Court…and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections 3(2) (a), Section 4(a) and Section 11 (a)” of the agency.
The Plaintiff is also sought to know whether the continuous stay of Fowler in office “is not illegal in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Ogbuinyinya & Ors. vs. Obi Okudo & Ors. (1979) All N.L.R. 105 and having regard to the combined provisions of Sections of the FIRS [Establishment] Act, 2007.
In the same vein, Okwara in the suit filed through Johnmary C. Jideobi & Co, sought a “A declaration that the 1st Defendant has ceased to hold office as the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service after the 20th of August, 2019”; and that his continuous stay in the office is illegal.
He was also seeking “an order barring Fowler from further holding himself out as, laying claim to or exercising the powers and functions of, the Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service unless he is re-appointed by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“An order directing Fowler to return forthwith to the Treasury Single Account of the Federation all the salaries, emoluments and such other kindred monetary benefits he has been drawing on the purse of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and file an affidavit of compliance within 14 days after the delivery of judgment in this suit.”
Okwara was also asking the court to cause Fowler to obey any other decision that the Court may deem fit to make in the entire circumstances of the case.
Authorities cited by Erokoro to puncture Okwarra’s claim that he has a locus to institute the suit include: Re-Ijelu Vs LSPDC (1192) NWLR (Pt 266) 414 at 422-432, Olorode V Oyebi (1981) in 1 SCNLR 390 at 400, 1984 5 SC P 1 at 16, Sunday Adegbite Taiwo V Serak Adegboro & Ors (2011) LPELR 3155 ( SC) at page 15 B and Nyesom V Peterside (2016 LPELR -40036 (SC); Barbus & Co Nig Ltd V Okafor-Udeji (2018) 11 NWLR (PT1630) 298 at 311-321, H-A and Emechebe V CETO Int Nig Ltd (2018 11 NWLR (pt 1631 520 at 537-538, CA Barry Chukwu, a lawyer with the FIRS an in affidavit dated 30th September also told the court that “On 21st August, 2015, the President forwarded Fowler’s name for appointment as the substantive Executive Chairman of the FIRS, for confirmation by the Senate. “Following a meeting by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the 9th December, 2015 Fowler was confirmed as the substantive Executive Chairman of the FIRS. “The following day, 10th December 2019, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, informed President Muhammadu Buhari of Fowler’s suitability for confirmation as substantive Executive Chairman of the FIRS,”
Based on this, Fowler’s appointment as Executive Chairman did not take effect on 20 August, 2015 when he was appointed as the acting FIRS Chairman. Saraki’s letter to the President to support his position. Your Excellency may, therefore, wish to formally appoint the confirmed nominee as Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Saraki’s letter of 15th December 2015.
When the court heard the case, Jideobi initially asked Justice Allagoa to throw out all the processes filed by the by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation as is not filed within time. He cited legal authorities to buttress this.
Ghazalli countered citing the October 1 holiday as a reason. He was served on the 26 he maintained. Justice Allagoa allowed the counsel to the Attorney General to orally move his motion to file out of time. He stood the court down for about 7 minutes to enable the counsel’s serve the other.
Jideobi told the court that Section 18 (1) of the Interpretations Act, places a duty on him, as a legal practitioner to uphold the Rule of Law. Further. He maintained that a Supreme Court ruling gives
precedence to the African Charter of Human Rights provisions over all local statutes.