Taraba Tiv-Jukun crises: Gov Ishaku question court’s jurisdiction

Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State has asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to decline jurisdiction over a suit challenging the legitimacy of a penal of inquiry he constituted to investigate the causes of the incessant crises between the Tiv and Jukun tribes in the state.

Ishaku’s request forms the kernel of a notice of preliminary objection he filed against the suit by a group, the Incorporated Trustees Mdzough U Tiv, its President, CP. Ihiagh Iorbee and four others.

The applicants, in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/955/2020, filed on their behalf by Sebatine Hon (SAN), are contending among others, that the composition of the Commission of Inquiry and its name were skewed against the interest of the Tiv tribe and therefore constituted a threat to their fundamental human rights.

They are praying the court for among others, a order quashing the instrument setting up the commission, and order quashing its proceedings and order restraining the Governor, the state government and the AG from receiving and acting on any report from the commission.

The applicants stated that not only is Governor Ishaku, who had allegedly worked against Tiv’s interest, a jukun man, key members of the Commission of Inquiry are from Jukun and allied tribes.

They noted that the unending crises between Jukun and Tiv tribes in Taraba State, to which many lives and property have been lost, resulted from the “resolve of the Jukun tribe to forcefully push out the Tiv people from Taraba State for political and other reasons.”
During the last proceedings on August 19, 2020, Justice Ahmed Mohammed ordered Ishaku and other respondents in the suit to show because why the interim restraining injunctions sought by the applicants against them should not be granted.
The judge adjourned till August 25 for the respondents to appear and show cause.

At the mention of the case on Wednesday, Ishaku’s lawyer, Abdul Ibrahim (SAN) informed the court about the notice of preliminary objection he filed for his client.
Abdul, who said he also represented the Taraba State Government, told the court that his clients are challenging the jurisdiction of the court on the grounds that the suit ought to be heard in Taraba State.

Other respondents also claimed to have filed separate objections to the suit, but that court processes have not been fully served on all parties involved.
One of the respondents, the Chief of Air Staff, in a separate motion on notice, prayed the court to strike out his name from the list of respondents on the grounds that he had nothing to do with the probe panel.
Realising that all the respondents have not been fully served, applicants’ lawyer Hon, applied for a short adjournment for definite hearing of the matter.
Hon said his request for a brief adjournment was because the suit touches on the enforcement of his clients’ fundamental rights.

He proceeded to withdraw his motion for interlocutory injunctions, noting that he was informed the previous day the commission concluded its public hearing within five as against the earlier announcement that it would sit for long.

Hon said he would not want to waste the court’s time on the motion for injunctions since the commission has ended its sitting, but would prefer to have the substantive case heard and determined expeditiously.

He prayed for a date for the definite hearing of the substantive suit.

Ruling, Justice Mohammed acceded to Hon’s request and struck out the motion for injunction the withdrawal having not been opposed by the respondents.

The judge however declined to give definite date for the hearing, but instead adjourned indefinitely on the grounds that the period allocated to him to sit as a vacation judge would end on August 27.

He elected to return the case file to the court’s Chief Judge (CJ), Justice John Tsoho, for further administrative direction.

Respondents in the case are the Governor of Taraba State, the Government of Taraba State, the Attorney General (AG) and Commission of Justice of the state, the Commission of Inquiry into the crises between Tiv and their Neighbouring Communities in Taraba States and other Related Matters Thereto, and its members.

The members, listed as the 5th to 12th respondents, are Justice Kumai Bayang Aka’ahs (Chairman), Justice Emmanuel Garba, Justice Ambrose D. Mammadi (rtd), Barr. Danuma D. Rindam, Prof. Rotgak I. Gofwen, Prof. Istifanus Zabadi, Hamidu Audu Esq and Emeka Okoro Esq.

Also listed as respondents 13th to 19th are; the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Inspector General of Police, Director General, State Security Service (SSS) and Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).