Save Nigeria Group gets April 3 date for hearing in suit against Government

An Ikeja Federal High Court has fixed April 3 for hearing in the suit filed by the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) against the Federal Government over deployment of soldiers to the Gani Fawehimi Park in the wake of the recent anti-subsidy removal protest march in Lagos.

The group had sued the Federal Government for N100 million for deploying soldiers to forcefully occupy the park on January 16, thereby denying its members the right to peaceful protest against an obnoxious anti-people government policy.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) lists the respondents in the suit to include President Goodluck Jonathan; the National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi; the Chief of Defence Staff, Oluseyi Petinrin, Chief of Army Staff, Azubuike Ihejirika; the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, and the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke.

When the matter came up on Monday, counsel representing the President, the Police IG and the AGF, Taiwo Abidogun, informed the court that he had not filed his counter-affidavit to the suit, claiming that the delay was caused by the way the applicant commenced the suit.

Pointing out that “certain steps were not taken before the respondents were served summons, Mr. Abidogun asked the presiding judge, Justice Steven Adah, for a short adjournment, to enable him file the response.

SNG counsel, Flora Ogbuitepu, had earlier asked the court to allow her move her application, without the respondents’ counter-affidavits being in the court’s file, pointing out that the respondents had been served with the processes of the suit on February 8 and 9, 2012.

According to her, their failure to respond within five days, as provided by the court rules, implied that they were not willing to oppose the suit.

Adah, in a short ruling, however, declared that “the court will grant the indulgence” to enable the respondents to regularise their filings.

He, therefore, adjourned the matter to April 3 for hearing on the application.

The SNG is asking the court for a declaration that the deployment of soldiers to the park is unconstitutional and a violation of the fundamental rights of the protesters to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions, freedom of movement, personal dignity and peaceful assembly.

According to the group, the rights are guaranteed by the extant provisions of Sections 34, 35(1), 39(1), 40, 41(1) and  46(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).

The applicants also asked for an order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents and their agents from further acts that will constitute intimidation and restrictions of the movement of its members.

They further asked the court to order the respondents to tender a public apology to the SNG, published in three national newspapers, for the indignity and breach of their fundamental rights, which must.

The SNG asked for N100 million being general, special and exemplary damages against the respondents, jointly and severally, “for the unlawful, arbitrary and illegal violation of the applicant’s fundamental rights”.

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