Court strikes out suit seeking forensic auditing of NSIA

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja Monday struck out a suit seeking an order suspending Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji, as well as an order for a forensic audit of the organisation’s accounts from inception.

Justice Ahmed Mohammed struck out the case consequent upon an application for the withdrawal of the suit by the plaintiff, Mr Johnmary Jideobi, an Abuja-based lawyer.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2020, the plaintiff challenged the legality of the NSIA.

The institution was created via the NSIA (establishment) Act 2011 under the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

It was saddled with the responsibility to receive, manage and invest some of the federal account funds in event of the depletion of Nigeria’s oil reserve in future.

In the suit filed May 22, 2020, the plaintiff contended that  various provisions of the NSIA Act violated the provisions of sections 80 and 162 of the Nigerian Constitution which created the Federation Account/Consolidated Revenue Fund Account and provided that all revenues accruing to the federal government must be paid into them and shared by the 3 tiers of government.

Jideobi further argued that the National Assembly lacked the power to make a law like the NSIA which in his view, authorised the violation of the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution.

Listed as defendants in the suit were the NSIA, its managing director, Mr. Uche Orji, Senate President Ahmad Lawan;  Speaker House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila; the National Assembly, and its clerk.

The rest were Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

However, without adducing any reason, the plaintiff filed an application July 6, 2020, seeking the withdrawal of the suit.

Although Jideobi prayed that the suit be struck out, at the July 7, 2020 proceedings however, counsel to NSIA and its MD, both sued as the 5th and the 6th defendants respectively, Mr  Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN),  urged the court to dismiss the suit with N1million awarded against the plaintiff.

This, he insisted, was because the application seeking the suit’s  withdrawal  was belated, as his clients were made to go through the rigour of filing their defence in the case.

And the plaintiff countered that the suit should be struck out following which the trial judge reserved ruling for Monday.

In his ruling, Justice Mohammed held that going by the rules of the court, the appropriate order to make was that of striking out and not of dismissal.

 Contrary to the argument by Awomolo, the 5th and 6th defendants’ lawyer, the judge said the plaintiff did not require the leave of court to withdraw the suit because the application for its withdrawal filed on July 6, 2020, was filed within 14 days of serving the suit on the defendants on July 1.

However, the court ruled that, having been made to file their defence before the application for the withdrawal of the suit was filed,  the two defendants were entitled to N150,000 cost to be paid to them by the plaintiff.

The trial judge therefore ruled that the plaintiff must pay the N150,000 cost to both the NSIA and the MD before taking any future steps which might include refiling the suit on the same subject matter against the same set of defendants or their privies.

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