By Adejuwon Osunuyi
(Prof) Chuka Austine Obiozor of a Lagos Federal High Court, has recused himself from presiding over a N2.005 billion fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by a Nigeria businesswoman, Nneka Ogbonna against the Air Peace Limited and four others.
The businesswoman had dragged the airline alongside Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Captain Horace Millar-Jaja, a pilot with the airline, in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1206/2020, for accusing her of being a terrorist and hijacker.
She had subsequently urged the court for 15 declarations and 16 orders including an order directing Air Peace Limited, NCCA, FAAN and Captain Millar-Jaja, to pay the Applicant the sum of N500 million each, totaling N2 billion and N5.5 million, as damages for the multiple infringements, violations and/or breaches of her fundamental human rights including her right to dignity, freedom of movement and dignity of her human person, protection of the family and discrimination against her, who is an expectant mother and for cost of instituting the suit.
She also asked the court to direct the airline, NCCA, FAAN and Captain Millar-Jaja, to pay post-judgement compound interest on all sums awarded by this Honourable Court at the applicable Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Minimum Rediscount Rate (MRR) (or at such other commercial interest rate as the court may deem fit) to be applied from the day of the judgement of the court until full and final payment by the Respondents.
In responding, Air Peace Limited, in a counter affidavit deposed to by one Judith Obi, an Air Hostess with Air Peace Limited, urged the court to refuse the reliefs sought by the applicant, for being malicious, frivolous, vexation and gold digging in desperate move to make fortune out from nothing.
Judith Obi further debunked all the claims of the Applicant in her counter affidavit.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, counsel to the applicant, Mr. Ngozi Akandu of Akandu, Ezebube and Kalu told the court that all parties in the suit have filed their responses to his client’s suit, including the third (NCAA) respondent who signified an intention to file a further counter-affidavit but who was absent from court.
The court was on the verge of standing the matter down when counsel to IGP, Mr. Joseph Nwadike, told the court that while the matter was pending, counsel to the applicant wrote a petition captioned “RE: attempt by Inspector Danjuma Obii and Joseph Nwadike (Esq), to subvert and pervert the course of Justice and to occasion a miscarriage of Justice in an on-going purely civil court proceedings in favour of AirPeace Limited’, urgent petition for intervention and investigation”.
Upon inquiry by the Judge, about the revelation made by the IGP’s counsel, the applicant’s counsel admitted doing same on the instructions of his clients but explained that it is was not in relation to the case before the judge but on a totally different matter.
Not comfortable with the development, the Judge on Tuesday, recused himself from hearing the matter and returned the case file to the administrative judge for re-assignment to another judge.
In the same vein, the judge also recused himself for ‘personal reasons’ from entertaining the criminal charges filed against the Applicant by Joseph Nwadike of the Nigeria Police.
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