Suit seeking Fowler‘s sack as FIRS Boss struck out by Court

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A Federal High Court sitting in Kano, yesterday, dismissed a suit challenging the tenure of Mr. Babatunde Fowler as Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

The court, presided over by Justice Lewis Allagoa, struck out the suit when it upheld the preliminary objection filed by Fowler’s counsellor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Paul Erokoro, stating that Stanley Okwara, the plaintiff, had no locus standi to file the suit.

Justice Allagoa came to the conclusion after an hour-long review of all the legal authorities cited by Erekoro, T.A Ghazalli, counsel to the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is the second defendant; and JohnMary C. Jideobi, the plaintiff’s counsel.

He said he could not see how the rights of the plaintiff were affected by the non-appointment of the Executive Chairman, FIRS after August 15.

He agreed with Fowler’s counsel that the plaintiff had no cause of action and that it was fatal to his suit that he didn’t file a pre-action notice to the court, as required by the Federal Inland Revenue Establishment Act (FIRSEA) 2007.

“I agree with the first defendant that the plaintiff ought to have served the defendant with a pre-action notice. Learned SAN asked the court to strike out the suit. I so hold,” Allagoa said.

The judge also upheld Erokoro’s submission that the suit should be struck out as there was no “justiciable cause of action”.

Ike Odume, FIRS Director of Legal Services, saluted the court, saying: “My Lord, we thank you for being forthright in this matter. Thank you for doing justice. It cannot be less. I have been following this court from Enugu. I know you will always do justice. Thank you.

“My Lord, we will be asking for costs. We have come all the way from Abuja three times because of this matter. We will be asking for costs,” said Odume.

Justice Allagoa, however, overruled Odume.

“Don’t kill a fly with a sledgehammer. Parties should bear their costs,” he held.

The counsel to Okwara, Jideobi, was represented in court by Barrister A. Issa.

About a fortnight ago, Fowler’s counsel, Erokoro, supported by Odume and counsel to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Ghazalli, in a preliminary objection, asked the court to strike out Okwara’s suit

Erokoro and Ghazalli told the court that Okwara had no locus standi to file the suit in the first place and that the suit should be struck out as the court had no jurisdiction to entertain it. Both maintained that the proper place for the suit is the National Industrial Court.

But Okwara told the court that as a legal practitioner, he had a fundamental human right to file the suit and he had a duty under the Legal Privileges Act to uphold the Rule of Law.

The plaintiff had asked the court, in the suit (No. FHC/KN/CS/141/2019) to order Fowler to vacate his office, which, he claimed, had expired on August 18, 2019.

Okwara claimed that Fowler was appointed on the 20 August 2015 and that his tenure had expired as FIRS Chairman after 20 August 2019.