Court dismisses NJC’s objection on Ajumogobia’s dismissal
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, dismissed the objection raised by the National Judicial Council (NJC) against the hearing of a suit filed by Justice Rita Ofili Ajumogobia challenging her dismissal from service.
The NJC had, in 2018 dismissed Justice Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court from the service of the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) on the ground of alleged gross judicial misconduct.
Dissatisfied with the action of the NJC, Justice Ajumogobia, approached the Federal High Court, Abuja with a suit 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, null and void the report of the fact-finding committee that recommended her dismissal.
The dismissed judge, among others, claimed that her fundamental right to a fair hearing was breached in the ways and manners she was dismissed from service.
However, the NJC and other defendants 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 Council contended that being a labour related matter involving an employee, the plaintiff ought to have gone to the National Industrial Court to ventilate her grievances.
The defendants, including, the Attorney General of the Federation, President Muhammadu Buhari, Justice Olufemi Akinta, Justice Ishaq Bello and Justice Julieth Kentu, while denying the claim of 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 prayed the trial Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo to dismiss the objection to her suit on the ground that she was challenging the constitutionality of her dismissal.
In his ruling, Justice Ekwo dismissed all the objections by the defendants on the ground that they were misplaced and that the claim of the plaintiff was misconstrued.
The Judge held that Justice Ajumogobia raised constitutional issues bordering on denial of a fair hearing in the manner she was dismissed.
Justice Ekwo further held 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, held that the plaintiff’s 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 Judge therefore fixed April 5,6 and 7, 2021 for the hearing of the substantive matter.