Court okays N505m suit against law firm over ex-staff’s prosecution

A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) says it possesses the jurisdiction to hear a N505million suit filed by an ex-staff of the law firm of Afe Babalola and Company, Mrs Bridget Emengo.
Justice Francis Messiri, in a ruling on the objection filed by the law firm, held that his court had the jurisdiction to hear the suit as it relates only to the firm of Afe Babalola and Co.
The ex-staff had sued the firm and the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) as 1st and 2nd defendants respectively.
In the suit marked: CV/988/2022, Emengo alleged malicious prosecution by men of the police following a petition by some of her former colleagues in the law firm, where she was an associate, having served for over nine years.
Justice Messiri, however, struck off the NPF as a party to the suit.
The judge held that the proper forum to sue the police for malicious prosecution was at the Federal High Court.
“Flowing from all said in the ruling, the court with jurisdiction to hear the suit against the 2nd defendant (the NPF) is the Federal High Court.
“This court can however hear and determine the claim against the 1st defendant (the law firm).
“This preliminary objection succeeds only to the extent that the name of the 2nd defendant is struck out of this suit.
“Consequently, the court will now proceed with the claimant and the 1st defendant on record,” Messiri said.
Emengo (the plaintiff), in the substantive suit, is seeking among others, a declaration that her prosecution in charge No. ABJ/CR/13 by the NPF at the prompting of the law firm before the Magistrate Court No. 10 in Wuse Zone 6, Abuja amounts to malicious prosecution by the defendant.
She also wants the court to order the defendant to publish an apology in two widely circulating national dailies and to award N500 million as general, aggravated and exemplary damages, in addition to N5 million as cost against the law firm.
Mrs. Emengo stated, in a statement of claim, that her ordeal started when she sued some partners and associates of the law firm before the National Industrial Court in Abuja for the wrongful termination of her employment, among other violations of her rights and those of her son.
She added that rather than respond to the suit, the affected individuals in the law firm petitioned the police and made sundry allegations against her.
The plaintiff said while her case before the Industrial Court, marked: NICN/ABJ/129/2022 was scheduled for mention on Oct. 4, 2021, men of the NPF, acting on the petition, invaded her home on the evening of Oct. 3, 2021, arrested her, detained her and later arraigned her before a magistrate court.
Mrs. Emengo stated that the magistrate court, in a ruling on Nov.11, 2021 upheld her objection to her trial and subsequently declined jurisdiction.
She claimed that the arrest and arraignment before the magistrate court was intended by the defendants to prevent her from prosecuting the case she filed before the Industrial Court.
Justice Osatohanmwen Obaseki-Osaghae, before whom the case is pending at the Industrial Court, had adjourned until Oct. 31.

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