Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja held yesterday that his court lacked the jurisdiction to hear the suit filed by suspended Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Lamido Sanusi.
Sanusi filed the suit against President Goodluck Jonathan, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), challenging his suspension as the nation’s apex bank’s governor by the President.
Justice Kolawole, in a judgment yesterday, upheld the objection by the defendants and held that the case related to labour and employment dispute over which the NIC has exclusive jurisdiction.
The judge held that, as against Sanusi’s contention that he is not an employee of the Federal Government, but of the Central Bank, and as such the case could not be described as an employer-employee dispute, he (Sanusi) is an employee of an agency of the Federal Government, which could be subjected to the control of the President.
“Once it is established that the CBN is an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria, it goes without saying that he is by extension an employee of the Federal Government of Nigeria,” the judge held.
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Justice Kolawole further held that his court could not hear Sanusi’s case because his appointment has statutory flavour, made in accordance with the CBN Act, as against that with constitutional flavour, made pursuant to constitutional provisions, and on which the Federal High Court could adjudicate.
The judge held that it was only public officers, whose tenure and appointments are specifically mentioned in the Constitution that could approach the Federal High Court for such judicial interpretation as requested by Sanusi in his case.
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“The plaintiff’s application is rooted in the CBN Act 2007 and rooted and not in the Constitution. In view of the conclusion, which has been inevitably reached, the Federal High Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the case, causes and action of a plaintiff as an employee of a statutory body like CBN.”
The judge further held that by the provision of Sections 251(1) and 254(c) of the Constitution the proper forum for the hearing of Sanusi’s suit was the National Industrial Court.
The judge, relying on Order 56 Rule 3 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009 and Section 24(3) of the NIC Act, 2006, elected to transfer the case to the NIC as against the defendants’ prayer that the suit be dismissed.
“In conclusion, the plaintiff’s case is hereby transferred to the National Industrial Court subject to Section 24 (3) of the National Industrial Court Act 2006 and shall be heard and determined on the direction of its President in accordance with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) as well as other relevant and enabling Acts as a matter of utmost urgency,” Justice Kolawole ruled.
The judge said he would refrain from deciding the substantive suit on its merit so as to be fair to the NIC which he said was entitled to hear the case afresh and to avoid making any pronouncements that could deny justice to any of the party at the NIC.
He urged the NIC to determine the case promptly in view of the fact that the plaintiff’s tenure as the CBN governor officially expires on June 1.
He struck out IGP’s name from the suit on the ground that the plaintiff failed to disclose any cause of action against him.