Coronavirus: Lawyer Withdraws Suit Compelling FG to Shut International Airports
•Cites Court’s failure to enforce accelerated hearing
An Abuja-based human rights lawyer, Mr. Johnmary Jideobi, has withdrawn as suit seeking to compel the Federal Government and Attorney General of the Federation to enforce immediate closure of Nigerian International Airports as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Jideobi in his notice of application on the suit no: NO:FHC/ABJ/CV/330/2020 filed on March 9, 2020 before the Federal High Court in Abuja, “as a concerned Human Rights Activist in enforcement of the fundamental rights to life of all Nigerians at the risk of being infected with the deadly coronavirus”, sought to discontinue it.
According to him, his notice of withdrawal and discontinuance of the suit is based on the ground was the failure of the Court to grant him accelerated hearing as strictly governed by the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules, 2009 as ordained by the Chief Justice of Nigeria especially Order 4 Rule 1, despite the Originating Motion on Notice being served on the Respondent since March 13, 2020.
He said: “Notwithstanding the mandatory provision of Order 4 Rule 1 to the effect that this Originating Motion on Notice has to be fixed for hearing within seven days after its filing, this Honourable Court fixed this suit for 5th day of May, 2020.
“Perplexed by this far date fixed by this Honourable Court for this matter [as communicated to me by the Registrar of this Court over the phone on the 16th day of March, 2020] I quickly filed an ex-parte Motion on the 17th day of March, 2020.”
He however, regretted that despite an ex-parte Motion for “An Order for hearing of the suit within the next seven days as envisaged and commanded by Order 4 Rule 1, by its ruling on March 20, the Court strangely slated the Motion ex-parte [which it ordered me to convert to Motion on Notice] for ‘mention’ on March 26”.
To this end, Jideobi expressed belief that by fixing this matter for May 5, 2020 whereas it was filed on March 9, the “Court gravely violated one of the fundamental essence of the provisions of the Fundamental Rights Enforcement Rules, 2009 which is speedy trial of such matters brought before the Court”.
He also stressed that the interest of the millions of Nigerians on whose behalf the suit was brought could have been better served if the Court had complied with the mandatory provision of order for hearing within seven days of its filing and deciding it one way or the other.
According to the Lawyer, the nomination of May 5, for the mater and subsequently fixing the Motion for mention on March 26, contrary to the FREP Rules 2009 amounts to a failure of duty on the part of this Court to the prejudice of the Applicant and millions of Nigerians he stands for in the matter.
He noted that between the March 20, 2020 when the ex-parte application was heard and March 23, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health, announced a significant increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 infected persons in Nigeria who majorly either came in through international flights or contacted same from the infected people who came in through international flights, an ugly situation, he said he sought to be prevented by the institution of the instant suit.
Against this backdrop, Jideobi concluded that “the continuous pursuit of the case would amount to locking the stable door after the horse has escaped as the harm urgently sought to be prevented [which is the subject-matter of the instant suit] has already occurred even before the Federal Government of Nigeria agreed to apply the needed remedy by completely shutting down all our international airports which belatedly took effect from Monday, 23rd day of March, 2020”.