The Lagos Division of the Federal High Court, Friday, held that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain a suit challenging President Muhammadu Buhari’s appointment of Hameed Ali as Nigeria Customs Comptroller-General.
Judge Muslim Hassan said the applicant, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, lacks the locus standi to initiate the suit.
“The appropriate thing to do is to decline jurisdiction and strike out the suit on the grounds of jurisdiction,” said Mr. Hassan.
Mr. Adegboruwa, a human rights lawyer, filed the suit in November last year challenging the appointment of Mr. Ali as head of the Customs.
Mr. Ali, a retired colonel, was appointed Comptroller-General of Customs in August last year.
According to the lawyer, the appointment failed to comply with Section 3 of the Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2002, and therefore should be nullified.
The gazette stipulates that only those within the rank of Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs can be elevated as substantive Comptroller-General.
In response to Mr. Adegboruwa, the Nigeria Customs had argued that the lawyer lacked the locus standi to file the suit.
The agency described the suit as a “mere academic exercise” since Mr. Adegboruwa was neither a Customs officer nor did he disclose he had suffered injuries by Mr. Ali’s appointment.
On Friday, the judge largely agreed with the government agency adding that Mr. Adegboruwa also failed to show he was among those qualified to hold the Comptroller-General position.
The judge also said the president’s power of appointment is not subject to any official gazette.
“A careful reading of the provisions of Sections 5 and 171 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria clearly shows that the president is clearly vested with the power to appoint the Comptroller-General,” said Mr. Hassan.
The judge, however, commended Mr. Adegboruwa for his efforts at “keeping the government on its toes.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court room, Mr. Adegboruwa said the court failed to address the main issue raised in the suit, but struck it out based on technicality.
“With all due respect, I believe that as a Nigerian, as a tax payer, as an activist, and as a lawyer, I have an interest and stake in who is appointed to any public office in Nigeria, as to whether the president has by-passed any law,” Mr. Adegboruwa said.
“When we get a copy of the judgement, next week, we’ll study it and compare the reasonings and conclusions contained in the judgment and decide whether indeed there’s going to be an opportunity to challenge it in an upper court.
“The message we are sending to the president is that we must follow due process, the rule of law, and once there’s a provision established by law, we must follow that provision.”