There have been a lot of disagreements following the proscribing of the IPOB group by the acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafaratai on Wednesday 20th September 2017 which has caused division among legal practitioners.
Some Legal Practitioners argued against the proscribing of the IPOB group and declaring them a terrorist organization.
Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN) an immediate past Lagos state Solicitor-General in a Statement on Thursday said he wondered if IPOB group is a juristic person that can be sued,
Pedro who observed that the order of the court is not a right thing to do as it can be easily challenged and be put aside.
He noted that the agitation from the IPOB group is important and advised the AGF to look for a better team to handle the case.
I observe that many things are wrong with the order and can easily be challenged, so as to set it aside.
In the first place, is IPOB a juristic person to be sued and for the court to exercise jurisdiction upon?
Secondly, this looks like a final order or judgment granted on a motion ex parte. This cannot be right in law. A different procedure should have been used to achieve the desired result.
Thirdly, the order or judgment is in breach of the fundamental right of the named respondent (assuming it is a juristic person) to fair hearing. It is, therefore, unconstitutional null and void.
the main relief is a declaratory order or judgment which should not be granted vide a motion either on notice or ex parte.
It is my advice that the AGF should review its strategy on the subject and may consider a proper and better legal team to advise and handle this important and sensitive case.”
Pedro finally stated that the order still has legal weight and remain binding since is being made by competent court until it is set aside.
Also, a Human Rights advocacy group, Access to Justice also supported Pedro; the group argued the declaration of the court saying the order was against the principle of fair hearing.
They wondered if the declaration respected the constitutional principle of hearing in the country.
The group view said:,
The court’s ruling is hard to rationalise and it will send many scratching their heads as well as fan the flames of an already volatile political situation.
It is disturbing because the ruling – which is a determinative, and conclusive statement on the legality of the Indigenous People of Biafra, as far as this court goes – was arrived at ex parte, when the other side – IPOB – was not given an opportunity at all to be heard or to oppose the application. It is at odds with basic tenets of justice and fairness.
The ruling of the Federal High Court does not stand up to respectable scrutiny and we fear that it would further damage public trust in the Nigerian judiciary.
Another legal expert who supported the motion of Mr Lawal Pedro is Mr Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa who is an Activist Lawyer of Human Rights Advocacy group said that the court order on the IPOB group is an ‘abuse of judicial process’.
Adegboruwa argued that the Indigenous people of Biafra group is not a registered organization which cannot be sued, so the declaration and order of the court on the IPOB group has no foundation.
He added, Legally speaking, the suit filed, the order granted and indeed all the proceedings in this case, constitute a gross abuse of the process of the court as the court has no jurisdiction to entertain, let alone adjudicate upon the case.
The suit was not initiated following due process of law, as stated by the Supreme Court in the locus classicus case of Madukolu v Nkemdilim (1962) 2 SCNLR 341. The suit filed and the orders granted have no foundation upon which they can stand and be maintained or enforced.
The supposed defendant in the case is the Indigenous People of Biafra, which is not a registered entity in law. And even if it is registered, it can only be sued in the name of its incorporated trustees or indeed its accredited representatives. Furthermore, unlike other associations like the Nigerian Bar Association, IPOB is not recognised or mentioned or legitimised in any existing statute.
For a suit to be competent, there must be proper parties before the court. In this case, the supposed defendant, IPOB, is a no-juristic person against which no action can be maintained in any court of law