The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, adjourned a suit filed by the Ondo State Chief Judge, Justice Oluwatoyin Akeredolu against the state governor and five others over a viral video made by a citizen of the state, Olupelumi Fagboyegun, until March 26.
Fagboyegun, who claimed to be a stepbrother to the state’s chief judge, in the viral video, had alleged that Akeredolu instigated his detention for three years for going to their father’s house.
Justice Inyang Ekwo again adjourned the matter for hearing after counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants told the court that they were yet to file any application in response to the plaintiff’s suit.
While the chief judge is the plaintiff, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the National Judicial Council (NJC), Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu, the Ondo State Attorney General (AG), the state’s House of Assembly and the Inspector General of Police are 1st to 6th defendants respectively in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/2016/2021.
Justice Ekwo had, on March 5, fixed March 22 (today) for the hearing of the suit after counsel to the AGF (1st defendant), T. A. Uchegbu, prayed the court for an adjournment to enable her to respond to the processes served on her by counsel to the judge, Jibrin Okutepa, SAN.
At the last adjourned date, the 2nd to 6th defendants were neither represented in court nor filed any application in response to the processes served on them by the plaintiff.
At the resumed hearing, Okutepa reminded that the matter was adjourned for hearing of the main matter.
He said despite the court directive, the 3nd to 6th defendants were served with the hearing notice but were neither in court nor filed any process.
“On our part, we are ready to take the matter my lord,” he said.
Uchegbu, who represented the AGF, again told the court that she was not ready to proceed in the matter.
She explained that her office was yet to file an application since it was still within the 30-day stipulated time to do so.
“Do you know the court has power over the rule?” the judge asked.
“No, my lord,” the lawyer responded.
“You don’t challenge somebody whose power you don’t know,” Justice Ekwo replied.
Chukwu Anthony, who represented the National Judicial Council (2nd defendant), also told the court that he was yet to file any application in respect of the matter.
The judge asked Okutepa if the exparte order granted in favour of Justice Akeredolu had expired.
“It is to expire on the 25th of this month my lord,” the lawyer said.
Okutepa, therefore, urged the court to make an order for the plaintiff to paste the next hearing notice at the Ondo State Liaison Office in Abuja for the 3rd to 6th defendants, having consistently served them with previous court processes in the state and had refused to respond.
“What the adjournment means is that I have abridged the time suo motuo. Did you hear me counsel to 1st and 2nd defendants?” Justice Ekwo asked.
The judge noted that in the last adjourned date, he directed the defendants who were not represented in court to be served with hearing notice.
“Now the 1st defendant did not file any process challenging the plaintiff’s application nor the 2nd defendant.
“The 3rd to 6th defendants have not filed any process and are absent in court today. They are not represented and no excuse was given,” the judge said.
Ekwo, therefore, granted Okutepa’s request to paste the hearing notice at the Abuja liaison office and adjourned the matter until March 26 at the instance of 1st to 6th defendants.
Justice Ekwo had, on Feb. 25, restrained the governor and all the defendants from taking any further steps in relation to the alleged probe of the state’s Chief Judge, Justice Akeredolu, over the viral video alleged to have been made by Fagboyegun.
The judge gave the order in a ruling on an ex-parte application filed by Justice Akeredolu.
Justice Ekwo particularly restrained the Governor, the AG and the House of Assembly from proceeding with the planned probe, and equally barred the AGF, NJC and the IGP from acting on any report submitted to them by the Ondo State government pending the determination of the main suit.