The Federal High Court, Abuja, Friday struck out a preliminary objection filed by the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, to stop further hearing on a N20billion suit instituted against it by Enugu State Governor, Peter Mbah.
Justice Inyang Ekwo held that contrary to NYSC’s argument, it has the requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine the case adding that the NYSC misconstrued the provisions of the law, when it contended that Mbah failed to fulfill certain condition precedents, before he took the matter to court.
The Governor had in the suit lodged before the court, accused the NYSC of deliberately tarnishing his image through a false claim that he did not complete his mandatory national youth service scheme.
On the strength of an affidavit he filed before the court, Justice Ekwo, on May 15, issued an order of interim injunction that restrained the NYSC from issuing or publishing a disclaimer to disown the certificate of service the Enugu State Governor tendered in aid of his qualification to contest the gubernatorial election that held in the state on March 18.
The court directed that the restraining order should be served on NYSC’s Director of Corps Certification, Mr. Ibrahim Muhammad.
Mbah had in the application he filed through his team of lawyers led by Mr. Emeka Ozoani, SAN, maintained that contrary to the allegation against him, he was on January 6, 2003, issued a certificate of service No. A. 808297, upon the completion of his NYSC.
He told the court that after he studied law and graduated from the University of East London in 2000, he returned to Nigeria and as a pre-requisite to practice as a lawyer, applied and was admitted into the Bar Part 1 programme of the Nigerian Law School.
“The plaintiff upon completing the Bar Part 1 exam had to wait for the Bar Part II programme. He was advised that instead of spending time idling around should proceed to the mandatory one year NYSC programme.
“The plaintiff was initially posted to Nigerian Ports Authority, Apapa Quays for his primary assignment but was rejected by NPA. Subsequently, the plaintiff secured the law firm of Ude & Associates”, he said.
He further noted that in the course of the Governor’s service year and after six months of NYSC, he applied and was granted approval to defer the NYSC in other to enable him complete the Bar final exam.
Thereafter, he was re-mobilized to finish the NYSC programme, which he completed, added.
Mbah told the court that he was called up for the NYSC and was deployed to Lagos where he served as a corp member.
The Governor alleged an attempt to smear his public image through the publication of a disclaimer by the NYSC to disown his certificate.
Cited as 1st and 2nd defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/611/2023, are the NYSC and its Director, Corps Certification, Muhammad.
Meanwhile, the defendants, through their own team of lawyers led by Aminu Sadauki, filed an objection to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter.
The defendants stated that Mbah ought to have sent a petition to the Presidency if he felt aggrieved over any action or statement by the NYSC regarding his certificate, rather than approaching the court straightaway.
The defendants told the court that the Governor failed to take the opportunity provided in Section 20 of the NYSC Act, before he instituted the legal action.
However, the Mbah urged the court to dismiss the preliminary objection which he said was bereft of merit.
He argued that the said Section 20 of the NYSC Act does not apply in his case since he is neither a serving corps member nor an employee of the organization.
Justice Ekwo who agreed with the Governor that the said section would only be applicable to serving corps members said: “I am minded to agree with the Plaintiff on whom the provision of Section 20 of the NYSC Act, 2004 applies. This means that the provision has a category of persons to whom it is applicable.
“A keen perusal of the provision of Section 22 (1) and (2) of the Act would reveal that it sets out the person to whom the provision of S. 20 of the Act applies, which is a ‘member of the service corps’, which is defined to mean a person registered as a member of the service corps”.
The Judge noted that it is stated in Section 21 (2) that for the purpose of the Act, the reference to a “member of the service corps” includes, unless to the context otherwise requires or it is otherwise expressly provided, a prospective member of the service corps or any person who is a registered member.
“It is rather sad that the objection of the defendant, NYSC, has been used to waste the time of this court. This objection is hereby struck out.
“The substantive matter is adjourned to September 21 and 22, 2023, for hearing”, Justice Ekwo held.