Youth Corps members
By Davidson Iriekpen
Justice Jonathan Shakarho of the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan has dismissed the suit filed by an Ibadan-based legal practitioner, Oluwole Aluko, seeking to invalidate the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
Following the killings of some corps members in some parts of the North in the aftermath of the presidential election held last April, Aluko had on May 6 rushed to court with a suit against the President and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice for the scheme to be scrapped.
He claimed that the NYSC Decree (now Act) amounts to servitude and forced labour and was therefore inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution. The plaintiff further argued that the NYSC Act was inferior to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, and ought to be abolished.
But delivering judgment, Justice Shakarho said the suit failed to comply with the NYSC Act, which requires anyone who is aggrieved by the scheme or anything done under it to first appeal to the Presidency before any action can be commenced in any court of law in the country.
The judge also agreed with the counsel to the President and the AGF, Mr Fabia Ajogwu (SAN) on the issue of the incompetence of the suit and lack of jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
According to him, “if the court lacks jurisdiction, then it lacks the power to refer questions to the Court of Appeal or make any order in the suit.”
He further held that as the plaintiff, a legal practitioner is not a serving corps member and therefore lacked the locus standi to institute the suit. The judge also held that the plaintiff also does not have a cause of action and that the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the suit.
Ajogwu, who had questioned the locus standi of the plaintiff to institute the suit, submitted that contrary to Order 3 Rule 6 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2009, the plaintiff's originating summons did not contain any relief/declaration being sought.
He also argued that the NYSC is a training scheme with the objective of training youth of Nigeria to imbibe discipline, high morality, self-reliance and patriotism and to promote national unity and integration.
The senior advocate argued that such training is excluded from the definition of forced and compulsory labour under the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He further argued that the NYSC Decree (now Act) is an existing law entrenched in the Constitution and not inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
Ajogwu, who entered a conditional appearance on behalf of the President and the AGF, and objected to the competence of the suit on the grounds that in addition to the points mentioned above, that there is no cause of action against the President and AGF as the NYSC Decree (now Act), is an existing law entrenched in the 1999 Constitution and not inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution any other statutes.
The stated that any changes on the NYSC Act goes beyond the scope of the Federal Government and extends to the state governments of all the states of the federation as provided under Section 9 of the Constitution.
The submitted that the Originating Process filed in the suit did not have the endorsement that it would be served out of Ibadan and in the FCT, Abuja as required by sections 97 and 98 of the Sheriffs and Civil Process Act.
The Plaintiff by a motion on notice challenged the validity of the Defendants’ objection. He then followed up with an application for reference of the questions to the Court of Appeal for its determination.
The Plaintiff subsequently filed another motion, seeking an order of injunction restraining the defendants, their agents, servants or privies from calling up young Nigerian graduates from tertiary institutions or universities below the age of 30 years from participating in the NYSC programme pending the determination of the suit.
He also canvassed for an order directing the defendants to instruct the NYSC Director-General to issue exemption certificates to all young Nigerians below the age of 30 years from tertiary institutions or universities that have been called in November 2011 to participate in the batch C of the NYSC programme.
Reacting to the judgment, Aluko alleged lack of fair hearing and threatened to appeal against it.
Culled from : Thisday.