By Olalekan Awojodu
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, dismissed the objection raised by the National Judicial Council (NJC) against the hearing of a suit instituted by a dismissed Judge, Rita Ofili Ajumogobia to challenge her dismissal.
Thegavel.com.ng recalled that the NJC had in 2018 dismissed Justice Ajumogobia as a Judge of the Federal High Court from the service of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) on the ground of alleged gross judicial misconduct.
Not satisfied with the NJC’s action, Justice Ajumogobia instituted an action at the Federal High Court, Abuja challenging the process adopted by the fact finding committee of the NJC that led to her dismissal.
The Judge prayed the court to declare as illegal, unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void the report of the fact finding committee that recommended her dismissal.
Among others, the dismissed Judge claimed that her fundamental right to fair hearing was breeched in the ways and manners she was dismissed from the court bench.
However, the NJC and other defendant’s in the matter filed separate preliminary objections against the hearing of the suit on the ground that the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain such a matter.
The NJC contended that, being a labour related matter involving an employment, the plaintiff ought to have gone to the National Industrial Court to ventilate her grievances.
The defendants, while denying the claim of the denial of fair hearing by the judge, further contended that the case was statute-barred having not been instituted within three months as required by the Public Officers Protection Act.
Specifically, they claimed that Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act makes it mandatory for such a matter to be instituted within three months for the matter to be competent.
Justice Ajumogobia in her counter affidavit had prayed Justice Inyang Ekwo to dismiss the objection to her suit on the ground that she was challenging constitutionality of her dismissal
In his ruling, Justice Ekwo dismissed all the objections on the ground that they were misplaced and that the claim of the plaintiff misconstrued.
The Judge said Justice Ajumogobia raised constitutional issues bordering on denial of fair hearing in the manner she was dismissed.
Justice Ekwo held further that the case of the plaintiff did not fall under the provision of the Public Officers Protection Act as claimed by the NJC and as such, was not statute barred.
The judge therefore insisted that the plaintiff claim, being a constitutional matter can only be heard by a Federal High Court and not a National Industrial Court as canvassed by the NJC.
The matter has been fixed for April 5,6 and 7, 2021 for hearing of the substantive matter.
Other defendants in the matter are the Attorney General of the Federation, President Muhammadu Buhari, Justice Olufemi Akintan, Justice Ishaq Bello and Justice Julieth Kentu.