Human rights activist and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, has questioned the legal process in the case filed against him by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai at the Magistrate court in Kaduna, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the case which has been held behind closed chambers since March.
El-Rufai had disagreed with Odinkalu, in February over the number of people killed in an attack in Kajuru, Kaduna State, and therefore instituted a criminal charge bordering on incitement and falsehood against the rights activist.
At the hearing on August 9, counsel to the defendant, Gloria Mbaeiam Bellason argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the case had no file record which means the conditions for filing the suit against Odinkalu did not follow legal procedure.
“It is our submission, that the present case in which orders have been made in a case without a number is quite clearly incompetent and this Honourable court has been led into acting without jurisdiction,” she told the court.
She also countered the ex – parte motion filed by the Kaduna State government requesting the Police to investigate the allegations leveled against Odinkalu by filing a preliminary objection to that effect alluding to the fact that the procedure was illegal.
The State government had filed an application to the court, on March 22, directing the Kaduna State command of the Nigeria Police Force to carry out an investigation on Odinkalu.
In a letter dated March 28, the Kaduna State judiciary wrote the deputy commissioner of police in charge of criminal investigation and intelligence department to affect the investigation.
However, counsel to the defendant, Gloria Mbaeiam reiterated that the jurisdiction of the court was on a faulty premise with regards to hearing the case since the case has no file number.
“Without a case number assigned to a lawsuit it’s like saying there is no record of a court proceeding ever been held on that issue,” she said.
On October 11, Chief Magistrate of the State Magistrate Court, Ibrahim Musa had ruled that the state, had filed a counter – affidavit, had a right to respond on points of law.
Before the ruling, counsel to Odinkalu had drawn the Chief Magistrate’s attention to the fact that the case was not listed on the case list to be heard by the court. The magistrate, nonetheless, insisted that it wasn’t going to be a problem because his ruling was ready.
The case was therefore adjourned to October 16 for further hearing.
Gloria Mbaeiam however noted that the direct criminal complaint filed by the Ministry of Justice, ex – parte motion, affidavits filed by the state and court orders by the magistrate had no case numbers apart from the complaint to the police where the case curiously developed a suit number out of the blues.
Abdul Mahmud, a lawyer said Kaduna State government is using its political power to bulldoze the judiciary in an attempt to override the judicial process.
“The court process numbers on cases indicate the jurisdiction of the court that is supposed to hear a particular matter, but in a situation where the case number is not given to a case then no court has a legal right to hear that case,” he said.
El-Rufai in February had disclosed that about 66 Fulani residents were killed in the attack, but Odinkalu, and many other Nigerians have contested that claim.