Former executive director of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Dr Bashir Gwandu, has filed a suit before the National Industrial Court , NIC, in Abuja against President Goodluck Jonathan, challenging the legality of his removal from office .
The plaintiff, who also named the attorney -general of the federation (AGF) and the minister of justice , Mr Mohammed Adoke (SAN), as co-defendants to the suit, wants the court to take judicial notice of the fact that his removal from office fell short of set procedure.
When the case came up yesterday before Justice E. D. E Isele, lawyer to the defendants, Mr P C. Mbam from the Federal Ministry of Justice, told the court that he was not opposed to the matter.
He also claimed that Gwandu was yet to serve his client with his response against the preliminary objection raised against the suit.
He further claimed that he had just been shown a copy of the response by the claimant's lawyer , Mr Deji Morakinyo from Femi Falana Chambers .
Bu the development prompted Morakinyo to express dismay over the claim of Mbam
The defendants had earlier urged the court to grant them an extension of time to regularise their appearances and the court processes on their preliminary objection against the suit, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter. The defendants were yet to file their responses, about six months since the claimant filed the originating summons in February, leading to the plea for extension of time.
Morakinyo, who urged the court to grant his client an amendment to the originating summons, told the court that it was unfortunate to note that the response to the defendants' preliminary objection, which was filed since September 2, was yet to be served by the court bailiff.
Yesterday's court hearing had focused on clearing of pending applications including the president's request to be heard having responded four months late (in July) to the case that has been filed since February 8, 2013.
The court also permitted the claimant's amendment to the originating summons including claim of aggravated damages as a consequence of his removal from two international positions that cannot be recovered.
Justice Isele, who expressed displeasure over the development, stressed on the need for lawyers to show due diligence in following up to ensure proper services for their cases to be heard expeditiously, saying that justice delayed is justice denied. Gwandu has dragged the President to court over the unlawful termination of his appointment, asking the National Industrial Court to seek interpretation of sections 8, 10(2),10(3) and 10(4) of the Act 2003 as well as re-instatement if breach of statutory procedure is established by the Court.
He is also asking the court to determine the following questions :
-Whether by virtue of the provisions of S. 10 (2), (3) and (4) of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, his purported removal as an Executive Commissioner of the Nigerian Communications Commission by the 1st defendant (President) via a letter dated November 26, 2012 is not illegal, unconstitutional, ultra vires, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
-Whether having regard to the provisions of S. 10 (2), (3) and (4) of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, his fundamental right to fair hearing was not breached having not been served with the statutory notice of the intention of the 1st defendant to remove him from office and the reasons thereof and afforded the statutory opportunity to make written submissionsthereto prior his removal from office.
-Whether having regard to the provisions of Sections 8 and 10 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003, the appointment of the claimant by the 1st defendant does not havelegal status as to invest the Court with the power to order the reinstatement of the claimant and payment of his salaries and allowances since November, 2012.
-Whether if questions 1, 2, & 3 above are answered in the affirmative, the claimant is not entitled to exemplary and aggravated damages.
The damages apparently are to (1) Compensate for the loss of the two major International ITU Appointments lost which even when re-instated by the courts are lost for good, (2) Served as a exemplary, (3) cover the costs incurred for pursuing the case in court (4) damage to reputation in the manner removed.
Section 10 of the Act specifically provides the Procedure to be followed for suspension or removal of a Commissioner. Sections 10 (2), (3) and (4) of the Nigerian Communications Act States:
10(2) Prior to the suspension or removal of a Commissioner under subsection (1) of this section, the President shall inform the Commissioner by written notice, as soon as practicable, of his intention to suspend or remove the Commissioner from office and the reasons therefor.
10(3) The affected Commissioner under subsection (1) of this section shall be given a reasonable opportunity to make written submissions to the President within a time period specified in the notice and such time period shall not be less than 14 days from the date of the notice.
10(4) The affected Commissioner may, within the time period specified in the notice, submit a written submission and the President shall consider the submission in making his final decision on the Commissioner's suspension or removal from office.
Gwandu's Lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN , also contends that the President has failed to comply with what the law compulsorily requires of him in the rushed decision to remove Gwandu. The law requires a notice that must contain reason for intention to remove the Commissioner be issued and opportunity (of not less than 14days time frame) be given in such a notice.
But there was simply no notice from President or his agents with stated reasons of intention to remove Gwandu, and thus, no opportunity was granted for him to respond to the President to enable the president to make his final decision, as required by law.
The case has been adjourned till September 30, 2013.