Factional Nigeria Governors’ Forum Chairman and Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang on Wednesday opposed moves by his Lagos State counterpart, Babatunde Fashola, to withdraw a suit seeking to restrain him (Jang) from acting as the forum’s chairman.
Fashola’s lawyer, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), did not disclose reasons for the sudden decision to discontinue the proceedings, which is before an Abuja High Court.
However, Jang’s lawyer, Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), who opposed the plaintiff’s move, instead prayed the court to dismiss the suit in its entirety.
Oyetibo’s prayer, it was gathered, would stop any further plan to re-file the matter.
Oyetibo’s opposition was based on the provisions of Order 27, Rules 2 and 6 of the High Court, which stipulates that a motion to which defendants had filed statements of defence could not be withdrawn without the permission of the court.
Hearing in the case had stalled twice following disputes over the identity of counsel for some of the defendants.
However, the presiding judge, Justice Peter Affen, on Wednesday settled the dispute by announcing that four NGF Registered Trustees had deposed to affidavits electing Friday Nwosu, instead of Awa Kalu (SAN), as their lawyer.
Kalu, the counsel for the second defendant – the NGF Director-General, Aisashana Okauru – had also announced appearance for the NGF Registered Trustees, the fourth defendant, a brief, Nwosu is laying claim to.
But the identities of the four registered trustees, who deposed to affidavits to choose Nwosu as lawyer of the group, were not disclosed.
The NGF registered trustees are governors Babangida Aliyu, (Niger); Isa Yuguda (Bauchi); Martins Elechi (Ebonyi); Godswill Akpabio (Akwa-Ibom); Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta) and Fashola.
Having settled the dispute over the brief of the Registered Trustees, Osinbajo announced that he had filed a notice seeking to withdraw the suit against the defendants.
The notice was dated July 16, 2013, but copies of the notice were served on the defendants in the courtroom.
Osinbajo therefore asked the court to strike out the suit.
But Oyetibo immediately opposed the move.
Oyetibo noted that since the plaintiff filed a motion to which the defendants had already responded, it was no longer possible for him to withdraw the matter without the permission of the court.
He said, “An applicant is bound by the prayers contained in his motion – they are seeking leave to run away. My submission is that the proper order is to dismiss the suit, not to strike it off as requested by the plaintiff.
“This is because, in light of all the materials placed before this court so far, the plaintiff has realised the weakness of his claims against the 1st defendant.”
But Osinbajo disagreed, stressing that the decision to withdraw the suit was not based on any purported weakness.
Justice Affen later adjourned to September 9, 2013 to hear the motion for withdrawal of the suit.