Court declines jurisdiction to hear case against Customs boss

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, has declined jurisdiction to entertain the case challenging the appointment of Col Hameed Ali (retd) as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service.

The case was instituted by human rights activist, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, in November 2015, to challenge the appointment of Col Ali as the comptroller general of the Nigeria Customs Service, by Gen Muhammadu Buhari Rtd.

The case seeks the interpretation of the court as to whether the President could appoint anyone as comptroller general of customs without complying with section 3 of the Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made on March 25, 2002, wherein it was stipulated that only those within the rank of Deputy Comptroller General of Customs can be elevated as substantive Comptroller General. Adegboruwa had asked the court to nullify the appointment.

In response to the case, the Nigeria Customs service filed a preliminary objection, challenging the locus standi of the applicant to file and maintain the suit. The customs service contended further that Adegboruwa’s suit was a mere academic exercise raising hypothetical questions that the court should not entertain.

In his judgment, trial judge, Justice Sule Hassan on Friday, held that the President was empowered under section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, to exercise all executive powers, either by himself directly or through officers delegated for that purpose.

The judge further held that under section 171 of the same Constitution, the President is empowered to appoint public officers and thus, the appointment of Col Hameed Ali, was validly made and same will stand in law, notwithstanding any non compliance with any existing gazette to the contrary.

It was the view of the court that although it was satisfied that Adegboruwa merited the qualities narrated in his affidavit to qualify him to institute the action in court, but he has not shown sufficient or special interest that robes him with the requisite locus standi to maintain the action, not being a customs officer himself and having not shown any way in which he has been or would be affected by the appointment.

The court stated that the case of Senator Abraham Adesanya v President, FRN, is still the locus classicus on issue of locus standi and that it would not agree with Adegboruwa that the latter case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi v President, FRN, has opened the floodgate for citizens to challenge all government actions. The court then upheld the preliminary objection of the respondents and struck out the case without any order as to costs.

Reacting to the ruling, Adegboruwa commended the wisdom of the judge and stated that he filed the case upon his conviction that all the actions of our leaders must conform with law and due process. He pleaded with the judge to assist in furnishing copies of the judgment to the parties.

The judge commended Adegboruwa for his boldness and the initiative of filing the suit, stating that society needs people like him to keep the government on its toes.

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