TIMI O. D
The Abuja Federal High Court has dismissed the suit by the registered trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, AON, challenging the letter by the Chief Judge of the court, Justice John Tsoho, directing the transfer of the matter pending before the Lagos division of the court to Abuja.
Justice James Omotosho in his judgment on Thursday dismissed the suit on the ground that it was frivolous, unreasonable as it disclosed no cause of action.
The court also awarded a cost of N1.5m against the plaintiffs in favour of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Tsoho, for humiliating and harassing him in the course of performing his duties as a public officer.
Justice Omotosho held that the Chief Judge is empowered by the provisions of the Federal High Court Act to request for a case file at any stage of the proceedings and to re-signed same to another Judge of the Court and that such discretionary powers are not justiciable.
The trial Judge also held that Section 19 (3) of the Federal High Court Act and other enabling provisions have empowered the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to act so. He can exercise his administrative powers to transfer and assigned cases.
While explaining that the Chief Judge has not assigned the case file to another judge of the Federal High Court, the court held that the suit is frivolous and an abuse of court process and therefore dismissed it.
The Associations in the suit before the Abuja federal High Court are challenging Whether section 19 sub section 3 of the Federal High Court Act and Orders 2 Rules 1 sub section 2 and rule 3 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2019 empowers or permit the Chief Judge of the federal high court to transfer a suit between the Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria & 5 Ors vs. Nigeria Air Ltd & 3 Ors pending before Hon. Justice A.L. Allagoa of the Lagos Judicial Division to the Abuja Judicial Division of the Federal High Court.
Other plaintiffs in the suit are Azman Air Services Limited, Air Peace Limited, Max Air Limited, United Nigeria Airline Company Limited, and Topbrass Aviation Limited, while other defendants in the suit are Nigeria Air Limited, Ethiopian Airlines, Sen. Hadi Sirika( Minister of Aviation, Federal Ministry of Aviation) and the attorney general of the federation.
The Airline Operatos are also challenging Whether the letter dated February 16, 2023 issued by Justice Tsoho for the case to be transferred from Lagos division of the court to the Abuja Division is invalid, improper and is not an unlawful/illegal interference with the judicial process in the said pending Suit.
They therefore sought, amongst others, a declaration that by Section 22(1) of the Federal High Court Act and Order 2 Rule 4 read along with Order 1 Rule 5 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, the power to transfer Suit between The Registered Trustees of the Airline Operators of Nigeria & 5 Ors vs. Nigeria Air Ltd & 3 Ors (the 2nd to 5th defendants herein) resides solely with the presiding Justice A.L. Allagoa of the Lagos Judicial Division and not the chief Judge.
The operators also sought an order of Mandatory Injunction quashing the order of transfer contained in the letter dated February 16, 2023 issued by the Justice John Tsoho acting on the letters of the 2nd, 4th & 5th Defendants.