NGF crisis: Jang seeks dismissal of Fashola's suit

By The Rainbow

Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang has asked an Abuja High Court to dismiss a suit in which Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola is seeking to restrain him (Jang) from parading himself as chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF).

Jang leads a faction of the NGF which is widely seen as having the backing of the Presidency. Jang claims that the election which Goveror Rotimi Amechi of Rivers State claimed to have won was fraught with malpractices.

He claims that he was elected by consensus which all along had been the tradition of the forum.

Fashola, one of the governors in the camp of the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi-led faction of the NGF, had, through his counsel, Prof. Yemi Osinbajio, SAN, and Femi Falana, SAN, asked the court to declare that Jang was not competent to be called the elected chairman of the NGF.

The Lagos State governor averred in the suit that Amaechi was duly returned as the chairman of the Forum in the elections held on Friday, May 24, 2013.

He, therefore, asked the court to stop Jang from parading himself 'as the elected chairman of the NGF in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.'

Jang; the Director-General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru; the Sole Administrator, Osaro Onaiwu; and the Registered Trustees of the NGF, were all joined as respondents in Fashola's suit.

But Jang has responded to the writ of summons filed by the Lagos State governor.

The Plateau State governor, through his lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, who is also representing Onaiwu, filed a preliminary objection to Fashola's suit on Friday, June 21, 2013.

In the preliminary objections to the suit with No CV/3389/13, brought pursuant to section 6 (6) (A) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and order 22, rules 2, 3 and 4 of the FCT High Court, Jang urged the court to strike out Fashola's suit on the grounds that the Lagos State governor lacked the locus standi to institute the action.

HeĀ  said since Fashola did not claim to have contested the election for the NGF chairman, he lacked a legal right to institute or sustain the action.

Jang noted that Amaechi, who Fashola claimed won the disputed election, had neither complained to the courtĀ  nor named or joined as party to the suit.

Arguing that the court has no jurisdiction to entertain the matter, Jang submitted that any dispute within NGF could not be taken to an Abuja High Court by virtue of Part C of the Companies and Allied Matters Act, which prescribes that such disputes should be resolved at the Federal High Court.

He further argued that the suit suggested a dispute between the governor of Lagos State and the governor of Plateau State, and as such, no other court has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter apart from the Supreme Court, which is bequeathed with the exclusive jurisdiction to determine or resolve disputes between state governments, or state governments and the Federal Government.

Jang further asked the court to strike out the suit on the grounds that the Writ of Summons was not issued in accordance with procedural due process, adding that the Abuja High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain Fashola's claims.

Also, he argued that 'even if the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has jurisdiction to entertain the Plaintiff's claims, the Plaintiff lacks locus standi to bring the suit.'

The NGF factional chairman stressed that, even if Fashola had the locus standi to institute the action, the subject matter of the suit was not justiceable 'as they relate to a mere dispute as to political dignity.'

In the statement of defence, Jang insisted that he was the authentic chairman of the NGF.

He alleged that ballot papers used for the disputed election were unilaterally printed by Amaechi, and therefore not authorised by the governor members of the NGF.

Jang noted that the Forum had always produced its chairmen by consensus of members, stressing that he emerged as chairman through consensus.

The statement of defence reads in part, 'Traditionally, the NGF does not hold elections to produce a chairman. It is the practice that the chairman of the Forum is appointed by consensus of the members. Where a consensus cannot be reached, the candidate supported by a simple majority would become the chairman.

'In pursuance of that fact above, Governor Amaechi was informed that 19 of the 36 governors of the states of the Federation have indicated in writing their decision to support Governor Jonah Jang as Chairman of the NGF.

'Despite the fact above, Governor Amaech still insisted that there must be an election and that he must preside at the meeting.

'At this stage, Governor Amaechi produced ballot papers which he had unilaterally printed without prior authority of other members of the NGF and started distributing same for the purpose of the so called election.

'When Governor Amaech refused to step down as Chairman of the Forum but insisted on presiding to conduct the election, 18 out of the 35 members present at the meeting immediately indicated their unflinching support for Governor Jonah Jang as the new Chairman of the Forum without prejudice to their objection to the insistence of Governor Amaechi on presiding over the election process.'

Jang and Onaiwu therefore prayed that Fashola's suit' be dismissed for being frivolous and unmeritorious.'