Alleged NYSC Act Violation: SPIDEL can’t sue without NBA’s authority—Court


A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit filed by officials of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Public Interest and Development Law (NBA-SPIDEL), seeking removal of the Minister of Art, Culture, and Creative Economy, Hannatu Musawa from office.

The trial high court held that SPIDEL, being not a registered body, lacked the locus standi to sue.

BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that about seven months ago after President Bola Ahmed Tinubu listed Hannatu Musawa as one of his ministerial nominees, there was an intense controversy on her eligibility on the account that she was a serving corps member.

Notwithstanding the controversy, the Senate endorsed her appointment, a development that divided the Nigerian bar and the human rights community.

For instance, while the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) felt it was a criminal offence for Hannatu to take up such appointment while still a corps member serving in a chamber in Wuse II, Abuja, a top lawyer, Mr Kunle Adegoke, SAN said the controversy over Musawa’s appointment was unnecessary because appointment into a political office is a call to service and should not be seen as employment for personal gains.

Adegoke said the appointment is a continuation of her duties as a youth corps member under the Act and should not attract any remuneration beyond what is payable to an average youth corps member until the expiration of her period for youth service.

“The only instance in which she could have committed an offence contrary to the NYSC Act is if she had claimed that she had completed youth service before her appointment as a minister.

“I believe that rather than creating a storm in a tea cup, this matter should be treated as stated herein,” he maintained.

Not convinced that Musawa was eligible for appointment, NBA-SPIDEL approached the Federal high court for an order to remove the corper-minister from office without the authority of its parent body— NBA.

BAR & BENCH WATCH reports that the plaintiffs in the case— John Aikpokpo Martins, the Chairman of NBA-SPIDEL and Funmi Adeogun, the Secretary— had initiated the legal action in their official capacities without the authority of the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA.

Prior to the hearing of the case, the NBA had suspended the activities of NBA-SPIDEL’s leadership, citing allegations of misconduct and breach of association rules pending an investigation.

But soon after the lawsuit was filed, the NBA President, Yakubu Mikyau, SAN, had shown interest in the case.

Represented by a senior lawyer, Olusegun Jolaawo, SAN, the NBA President, submitted on March 18, 2024, on behalf of the incorporated Trustees of the NBA, that SPIDEL’s actions undermined the authority of the NBA President and violated the association’s constitution.

He further submitted that NBA-SPIDEL could not maintain the action in its current form and urged the court to dismiss the case with costs.

During hearing in the case on March 19, 2024, the court sought to determine whether SPIDEL, as an unregistered association, has the legal capacity to file such a suit.

The court consequently ordered that NBA President be formally served processes in the case to enable him share his perspective on the issue.

The invitation had provided the NBA with an opportunity to be heard, in view of the frequent mention of the association in the legal processes.

After hearing out parties on the issue, the Federal high court dismissed the suit for want of jurisdiction.

The court held that NBA-SPIDEL did not have the locus standi to sue by virtue of Section 17(1) of the NBA Constitution, NBA-SPIDEL, being a creation of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) constitution.

The court held that  notwithstanding the fact that the Sixth Schedule of the NBA Constitution mentions NBA-SPIDEL as one of its sections, NBA-SPIDEL, being a mere section under the NBA and an unincorporated body, cannot independently file an action without the involvement of the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA.

The court specifically held that the NBA-SPIDEL owes its existence to the NBA or the Incorporated Trustees of the NBA.

The court further maintained that even if the suit were brought in their personal capacities, they would still lack the competence to pursue the case before the court.

The court thereafter dismissed the suit, stating that the plaintiffs acted contrary to Section 17(4) of the NBA Constitution by holding themselves out as representatives of the NBA without the involvement of the Incorporated Trustees.

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