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The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) has filed a preliminary objection against a suit brought by Gov. Peter Mbah of Enugu State, and the Federal High Court in Abuja has scheduled the hearing for July 11.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who presided over the case, not only set the date but also issued an order for the NYSC to file and serve their statement of defence within seven days.
This development transpired as a result of an oral application made by Aminu Sadauki, the defendant’s lawyer, who requested around one week to provide a response to Mbah’s substantive matter.
In relation to the alleged forgery of a discharge certificate, Justice Ekwo urged journalists to exercise caution and refrain from speculating in their reporting on the case instituted by the Enugu governor against the youth scheme.
After striking out the motion for joinder filed by the Labour Party and its governorship candidate, Jonathan Edeoga, who later sought to withdraw it, the judge issued the warning to journalists.
‘The problem I have in this kind of thing is that persons that have not been made parties will go and start addressing the media on speculative issues and the media will start writing things when they have not read the proceedings.’
‘I have always told the media that proceedings in this court are open to the media.’
‘It is only in this country that you see those that said they are practising journalism becoming agents,’ he added.
He firmly warned media practitioners against speculating on content that the court did not explicitly mention, emphasising the importance of accurate reporting.
Mbah’s lawsuit against the NYSC and its Director, Corps Certification, Mr. Ibrahim Muhammad, stemmed from the NYSC’s publication of a disclaimer, denying the issuance of a discharge certificate to Mbah on January 6, 2003.
Following the hearing on May 15, Justice Ekwo imposed a restraining order on the NYSC, Muhammad, and their agents, preventing them from engaging in the aforementioned publication until the main case is resolved.
Mbah’s counsel, Mr. Emeka Ozoani, SAN, filed an ex parte motion, resulting in the court’s decision to issue the order.
Through its preliminary objection dated May 19 and filed on May 22, the NYSC argued for the dismissal or striking out of the suit on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction and competence.
The NYSC presented three grounds of argument, stating that Mbah failed to adhere to the provisions of Section 20 of the National Youth Service Corps Act, Cap N84, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. According to the NYSC, Mbah did not appeal to the president, as required, before initiating the lawsuit against the defendants.
The NYSC emphasised that adherence to the appeal to the president was a crucial condition that had to be satisfied before initiating any legal proceedings against the defendants in a court of law in Nigeria.
The NYSC argued that because the plaintiff/respondent did not fulfill the requirements of Section 20 of the National Youth Service Corps Act, this lawsuit is premature and the court’s jurisdiction remains unestablished.
Mr. Ibrahim Muhammed, on behalf of the NYSC, wrote a letter on February 1, explicitly stating that the NYSC certificate in question, belonging to Mbah, was not issued by the corps.
After the Enugu state governorship election held on March 18, Mbah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) secured victory as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).