A Benue High Court sitting in Makurdi has held that former governor and his deputy, Samuel Ortom, and Benson Abounu’s suit against Governor Hyacinth Alia and the government of Benue State sought to limit the governor’s constitutional powers.
Delivering the judgment on Wednesday, Justice Theresa Igoche struck out the suit for being speculative and seeking to limit the constitutional powers of a democratically elected state governor in Nigeria.
Igoche further described the suit as an academic exercise that sought to delimit the constitutional powers of a governor as contained in Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
She said: “This court and in fact all other courts will not act on speculation. In my view, this suit is premature at this stage as there are no sufficient facts to support the reliefs sought in this originating summons.
“Even on the ground two of the grounds upon which this application is predicted. I agree with the applicants’ counsel that the suit as presently constituted aims at delimiting the constitutional powers of the governor granted by section five of the constitution.
“This case is not saying that the governor’s exercise of powers cannot be questioned at all.
“What I am saying in the instance case is that the plaintiffs have not brought sufficient evidence of any act of the defendants to warrant the determination of the questions set out in the reliefs in the originating summons.”
Recall that Ortom and Abounu had dragged the governor, Benue government, Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police Force, DSS, Hinga Biem and all members of the State Assets Recovery Committee before the high court.
Ortom, the immediate past governor of the state and his deputy, in the suit, challenged the retrieval of vehicles and property donated to them and their cabinet members by the Benue Executive Council before their handover on May 29
They alleged that such action of retrieval was a constitutional affront to their collective rights to ownership of property legally and legitimately vested in them by the then state executive council members.
Their counsel, Douglas Pepe said the cause of action was potent and alleged that over 32 vehicles donated to the plaintiffs by the Benue State Executive Council before they left office on May 29 had been taken custody by the defendants.
Pepe held that their decision to take custody or seize the 32 vehicles was an affront to the plaintiffs’ right to ownership of property. He urged the trial court to restrain the defendants and their agents from interfering with any of the property donated to them by the past administration.
However, Mohammed Ndarani, counsel to the governor, government of Benue State, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.
Ndarani also held that the entire case of the plaintiffs was based on speculation as it failed to give the identity of the cars and properties allegedly taken from the plaintiffs. He also urged the court to dismiss the suit because it sought to limit the executive powers of the governor to appoint and appropriate committees to help in the administration of the state.
Ndarani said the terms of reference of the committee to decipher the extent of their powers and to help determine whether the committee had overlapped its authority were not before the court.
He said the committee was also not shown to have completed its work to conclusively establish whether they had permanently taken custody of any vehicles, hence for investigative purposes, temporary taking of custody of vehicles is allowed under the constitution.