Imo State High Court sitting in Owerri, on Monday, struck out the case brought before it by the Young Progressives Party (YPP) seeking the removal of the Auditor- General of Local Governments, Imo State, Barr Osita Nwosu, whose tenure it said was extended by the government having retired from the civil service at the age of sixty years for lack of merit.
The court which was presided over by Justice S.I. Okwara, affirmed that it has the jurisdiction to hear the matter brought before it by the interested party in the judgment slammed YPP for having no locus standi in its petition against the Imo State government, the Imo State House of Assembly and the Auditor- General of the state.
YPP, as an opposition political party, on 21 2021 filled a suit at the State High Court Owerri, praying the court to nullify the extension of the position of the Imo State Auditor- General of Local Governments whose tenure it said elapsed upon his attainment of sixty years of (retirement) age in accordance to the civil service rule. The party had also acted as a pressure group.
In his judgment, Justice Okwara ruled that YPP lacked the locus standi (legal capacity) to institute the matter before the court which “struck out the suit in favor of the defendants. The plaintiff did not show special interest or injury in the matter which concerns civil service and (and the local government administration) hence lacks merit. YPP has no locus standi in the subject matter even though it has the legal right to sue and be sued. The Industrial Court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the matter too”.
Reacting to the judgment, counsel representing the Imo State House of Assembly in the matter, Azubuike Nwakenta, posited that only two issues were resolved in the matter which were whether the High Court or the Industrial Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter. Another pertinent issue of the matter is whether the plaintiff (YPP) has the legal capacity to institute the matter”.
Nwakenta submitted that “YPP has not shown the interest it has far and above every other person. So, the argument that the Supreme Court has relaxed the issues of jurisdiction that every body will come to court with any matter that has to do with public interest did not hold water. Because if you allow such a thing to happen- there would be a floodgate of litigations every where. One must show the interest he asserts vis a viz the relieves he seeks in the Court. Beyond being a political party, YPP has to prove how the actions of the defendants affect it”, describing the judgment as deserving, being a sound principle of law.
The issue of extension of office of the Auditor- General was never an issue in Imo State until when a committee led by Chief Okey Anyanwu went beyond the terms of reference of their charge to ask for the removal of the Auditor- General, without recourse to the extant laws of the land.
NewsTrack Nigeria checks later revealed that it was more political and interest driven. It could could not stand before the Auditor General as a lawyer raised an objection, which put a spanner to the maneuvering against him.
When Hope Uzodimma later emerged as the Governor of Imo State, he found the Auditor-General for Local Governments a competent hand to help him drive his agenda for a clean and corrupt free local government administration. This led to his extension in office. Based on this, On February 4, 2020, Governor Hope reinstated him in the office since his tenure had not expired.
Our Investigation later revealed that the stir in the civil service and in the office of the Auditor-General was allegedly being instigated by one Dominic Edemobi who wanted to be an Auditor-General at all cost.
When Edomobi was reached to respond to his alleged role, he declined to make any comment, claiming that as a civil servant, he did not have the right to speak to the press.
The social media trial overtook the vexatious issue until YPP went to court to challenge the Imo State government, which its failure was predictable.
This is so because there has been several precedents where Political Chief Executives extended the tenure of tenured public officers.
As reported in Premium Times, President Muhammadu Buhari extended the tenure of Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu.
The former Governor of Imo State, Chief Ikedi Ohakim extended the office of the Auditor-General under his administration for two years likewise his successor, Chief Ethelbert Okorocha.
With the present judgment, it is expected that normalcy should return and Office of the Auditor-General should be allowed to do its sensitive job for posterity sake.
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