Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
An Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Johnmary Jideobi, has appealed against the December 4, 2019, judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja which dismissed his suit asking for the removal of Ibrahim Magu as the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
He maintained in his two-ground notice of appeal which he filed at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal on Friday, that the lower court was wrong not to have removed Magu.
He stated that by refusing to sack Magu, the Federal High Court had wrongly applied the law enabling him to remain in an acting capacity for more than four years which would have been entitled to if his appointment was confirmed by the Senate.
The Senate, the Attorney-General of the Federation, EFCC and Magu are the respondents to the appeal.
Jideobi had in his suit filed before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja on March 2, 2017, prayed for Magu’s removal because the Senate had twice rejected his nomination and refused to confirm him to take up the position of the EFCC chairman in a substantive capacity.
Like other plaintiffs who filed two similar suits, he argued that Magu, who has been acting as the EFCC chairman since 2015, having been rejected by the senate, was not fit to continue to remain in the office either temporarily or substantive capacity.
Justice Ojukwu, in her judgments delivered on December 4, 2019, dismissed the three suits.
She also rejected the other two suits in which the plaintiffs contended that the Senate confirmation was not required for the President to appoint Magu as the EFCC chairman.
On the suits seeking Magu’s removal, the judge held that a person could continue to act as EFCC’s chairman at the pleasure of the Nigerian President because there was a lacuna in the law that failed to spell out a time limit for an acting tenure.
She held that section 2(3) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004, which provides that members and the chairman of the anti-graft agency could only be appointed by the President subject to the confirmation by the Senate, left a lacuna on how long a person could occupy the office of commission’s chairman in acting capacity.
She held that “In this instance, the lacuna in the law has given the President, the proverbial ‘knife and yam’ to do as he pleases, being that no time is stipulated for the duration of acting capacity in this case”.
However, in his notice of appeal which he filed on Friday, Jideobi argued that the judge erred in law.
He also described it as “perverse”, adding that it “has occasioned a miscarriage of justice”.
Stating the particulars of error in his first grounds of appeal, he said the judge used a vain language unknown to any law.
He added that the judge “correctly affirmed that without the confirmation of the 4th respondent’s appointment as the substantive Chairman his appointment cannot legally stand.
“The legislature did not mince words in stating that the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has a tenure of four years and renewable only once.
“That 4th respondent has exhausted more than four years in the position of ‘Acting Chairman’ of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission without the mandatory confirmation of the Senate
“By refusing to sack the 4th respondent (Magu) after making correct findings, the learned trial judge wrongly applied the law and unwittingly gave a judicial imprimatur to constitutional violation in appointments strictly governed by statutes.
“By not giving effect to mandatory provisions of the Constitution, the Interpretation Act, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act, the learned trial judge has allowed those laws to fall into disuse.”
In his second grounds of appeal, the appellant argued that the lower court was wrong to have refused to uphold the contention that Magu’s tenure had ended “by operation of law when the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria sent his name”.
He urged the Court of Appeal to allow his appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court dated December 4, 2019.
He also urged the appellate court to grant all the prayers sought in his suit filed before the Federal High Court including the one asking for Magu’s removal.