Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos on October 18, 2017, adjourned ruling on an application by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) seeking a stay of proceedings in a freedom of information suit instituted against it by Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria.
The NCAA is seeking a stay of proceedings pending the determination of its appeal against the ruling of the court delivered on November 24, 2015.
The NCAA application for stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the Court of Appeal’s decision arose in a Freedom of Information suit filed against it by Enough is Enough (EiE) Nigeria.
NCAA’s counsel, Chief Emeka Okpoko (SAN), in his application argued that NCAA is entitled to the stay of proceedings having shown special and exceptional circumstances to justify the application. His justification was based on the fact that the court lacks the power and jurisdiction to hear the matter because EiE Nigeria did not give the statutory notice before commencing the suit.
The Chief Okpoko said further that the issue of jurisdiction is an exceptional special circumstance which cannot be ignored by the court and that the court is bound to refrain from further action on the case given that an appeal was in motion before the Court of Appeal.
However, EiE Nigeria’s counsel Miss Chioma Nwaodike opposed the application and argued that the stay of proceeding will violate EiE Nigeria’s right to summary proceedings and that sections 241 – 242 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees right of appeal should not be allowed to override or render ineffective Section 36(1) of the same Constitution which guarantees fair hearing within a reasonable time. She said further that section 36(1) of the constitution is in line with Section 20 of the Freedom of Information Act which says that matters under the Act be summarily dealt with to avoid unnecessary delay.
EiE Nigeria also argued that there was no valid appeal pending against the decision of the court; NCAA was not able to show that the notice of appeal attached to the application was ever filed as there was no receipt attached to convince the Court that it ever exists. She pointed out that in addition, the order under which the application was brought is incurably bad as the said order is inapplicable. Chioma held that as such NCAA’s arguments that it has demonstrated or shown the special and exceptional circumstances cannot be verified.
Chioma also argued that an objection to jurisdiction based on non-compliance with the requirement of a pre-action notice does not abrogate EiE Nigeria’s right to Court or defeat its cause of action. She submitted further that once the action is within the jurisdiction of the Court, failure to serve the pre-action notice will only give NCAA right to insist on such notice and that non-compliance merely puts the jurisdiction of the Court on hold pending compliance with the pre-condition.
Miss Nwaodike finally submitted that NCAA has not shown any special and exceptional circumstance neither has it produce enough material facts to warrant the stay of proceedings pending the determination of its appeal. The issue of jurisdiction was merely raised to delay and frustrate EiE Nigeria’s constitutional right to fair hearing within a reasonable time.
Commenting on the notice of appeal, Justice Aikawa said there was no valid notice of appeal before the court, NCAA’s counsel responded by saying that the notice of appeal was filed but they are waiting for it to be entered into the Court of Appeal and that he was sure within few days that both parties would be notified.
The Court adjourned the ruling on the application for stay of proceedings to November 21, 2017 after the adoption of the parties written arguments.
It will be recalled that EiE Nigeria sued NCAA over its failure to provide information regarding the Stella Oduah’s two BMW armoured cars purchased by the agency.