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Nigeria: Appeal Court – NHRC Is Not Entitled to Pre-Action Notice

The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja has held that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is not entitled to pre-action notice before any legal action can be brought against it.

Delivering judgment in an appeal filed by a former Governor of Edo State, Professor Oserheimen Osunbor, against the decision of a Federal High Court Abuja which struck out his case against the commission, the court in a unanimous decision, upheld the appeal and ordered that the case be remitted to the Chief Judge of the court for a reassignment to another judge.

The commission at the lower court had raised an objection that the action was incompetent on the grounds that at least one month notice was not given to it before the suit.

Citing a plethora of authorities, the Court of Appeal held that the trial judge erred in law by striking out the case.

In the substantive suit, Professor Osunbor had asked the lower court to declare that his purported indictment by the commission for electoral violence was unlawful and unconstitutional because the commission did not give him any opportunity to defend himself before arriving at the indictment.

In addition, he prayed that the purported indictment be set aside because the rights commission went outside its powers by reviewing the judgment of the election petition tribunal which nullified his election and drawing a conclusion different from that reached by the tribunal.

He contended that no allegation of electoral offence was made against him by anybody and that the rights commission on its own and without any evidence from any witness indicted him for electoral offence.

But the commission filed an objection to the suit, arguing that the former needed to give it at least one-month notice before proceeding to court.

While reacting the judgment, Professor Osunbor hailed the Appeal Court judgment for stating the correct position of the law.

He added that the judgment would bring to an end the reign of impunity by the commission and its penchant for violating the rights of Nigerians and always shielding itself from legal action with a defence that it does not have.

The professor of law stated that the judgment would also make the commission to be more responsible in its operations and respect the human rights of Nigerians that it is meant to protect.

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