Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja has dismissed a suit filed against the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The plaintiff, Phillip Undie, had filed the suit on May 21, 2019, asking the court to sack Gbajabiamila as a member of the House of Representatives and disqualify him from contesting the leadership of the lower legislative chamber.
Undie had claimed that Gbajabiamila was convicted by the Supreme Court of the State of Georgia in the United States of America in 2007 for fraud and dishonesty and therefore, was not qualified to be elected a member of the National Assembly and a Speaker of the House of Representatives.
On June 14, 2019 Undie’s lawyer, Akeem Olasupo announced his withdrawal from the case, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/539/2019.
Gbajabiamila’s lawyer, Femi Adedeji, queried Olasupo’s decision to withdraw his appearance without withdrawing the case.
Lawyers to the other defendants did not oppose Olasupo’s withdrawal as plaintiff’s lawyer, but noted that he ought to have withdrawn the case too.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Ekwo granted Olasupo’s request to withdraw from the case, but noted that: “The plaintiff’s counsel withdrew from the case, but he did not withdraw the case, meaning the case is still before this court,” and adjourned till June 17, 2019.
At the resumed hearing of the case, a new lawyer engaged by the plaintiff, S.D Okoro adopted a notice of discontinuance of the suit filed by the plaintiff and prayed the court to strike out the case.
Gbajabiamila’s lawyer, Adedeji did not oppose the plaintiff’s decision to discontinue the case, but argued that, since parties have joined issues, with the defendants filing counter processes, the appropriate order for the court to make was that of dismissal.
Adedeji also urged the court to grant the cost of N1million against the plaintiff.
He also prayed for a cost of N1m to be awarded against the plaintiff.
Ruling, Justice Ekwo said: “On the last day of hearing of this case, Mr. Okoro appeared for the plaintiff, but there were no processes before the court, showing that there was a change of counsel.
“Today (June 24, 2019), I take notice of a process titled ‘change of counsel’ by Mr. Okoro dated June 20, 2019.
“Therefore, I am satisfied that Mr. Okoro has authority to represent the plaintiff in this case and therefore, entitled to conduct the case in accordance with the law. Now, Mr. Okoro has adopted the notice of discontinuance, dated June 17, 2019 and this is happening after issues have been joined in the substantive matter. Mr. Okoro is praying that the matter be struck out.
“I have listened to Mr. Adedeji; counsel for the 1st defendant, and on the consequential order to be made at this stage. It is the law that when parties have joined issues and the plaintiff seeks to withdraw the case, the proper order is that dismissing the suit.
“It is in this like that I agree with the learned counsel for the 1st defendant, and I hereby make an order dismissing this suit. On the issue of cost, I will not make any order as to cost, since parties decided to end the matter peacefully. I allow them to go home without grudges against each other,” Justice Ekwo said.