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Court strikes out lawsuit against legality of NSIA

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday struck out a suit challenging the legality of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) Act.

The suit, which also prayed for an order to suspend the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the authority, Uche Orji, was struck out following the withdrawal of the case by the applicant, Johnmary Jideobi.

Jideobi had also prayed the court for an order for a forensic audit of the organization’s accounts since it was established in 2011.

The applicant had filed the suit on May 22, 2020, arguing 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 tiers of governments.

He also argued that the National Assembly lacked the power to make a law like the NSIA which he contended authorized the violation of the provisions of Sections 80 and 162 of the constitution. However, Jideobi had on July 6, 2020, filed an application for the withdrawal of the suit. He urged the court to strike it out.

However, at the July 7, 2020 proceedings, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), who is the counsel for NSIA and its MD, the 5th and the 6th defendants, respectively, urged the court to rather dismiss the suit instead of striking it out as the applicant requested.

Awomolo urged the court to dismiss the suit with a cost of N1m awarded against the applicant because the application for the withdrawal of the suit was belatedly filed after his clients were made to go through the rigor of filing their defense in the case.

But Jideobi insisted that the case be struck out and not dismissed, after which the court adjourned till Monday for the ruling.

Ruling on the argument on the issue on Monday, Justice Ahmed Mohammed held that contrary to the argument by the 5th and the 6th defendants’ lawyer, the applicant 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.

In striking out the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2020, 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.

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

He ruled that the plaintiff must pay the N150,000 cost to the two defendants 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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