A Federal High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja, has ordered that fresh court processes be served on a former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, in respect of the suit filed by his ex-wife, Precious Chikwendu.
Chikwendu, a former beauty queen, filed the suit and alleged that Fani-Kayode, her ex-husband, beat her up on several occasions even while she was pregnant.
She, therefore, demanded full custody of their four sons.
She made the allegations in an affidavit she deposed to in support of an originating motion brought, pursuant to Section 69 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Friday, Justice S.C Oriji made the order after he set aside an earlier service on Fani-Kayode, which his counsel, Mr Adeola Adedipe, claimed was invalid because his client’s signature was forged.
Adedipe had prayed the court to decline jurisdiction on the matter and urged it to either strike out the suit or alternatively set aside the earlier purported service of the processes filed by Chikwendu on his client.
In his submission, the defendant‘s counsel said his client never received service of court process from the bailiff, adding that the signature of his client on the certificate the bailiff returned was forged.
The lawyer said the only reason the minister was present in court was out of protest and not because he was duly served.
He added that the issue of the purported service was currently being investigated by the police.
Responding, counsel to Chikwendu, Mrs Enohor Moi-Wuyep, prayed the court to dismiss Fani-Kayode’s application in its entirety.
According to Moi-Wuyep, the respondent was duly served, and there was a text message by the respondent to the applicant acknowledging receipt of the court summons.
“This is the text message he sent; I received your summons, I thought we were making progress and the matter can be resolved amicably in the interest of the children. What a pity, we shall meet in court.”
On the issue of jurisdiction, the counsel argued that it was the court that would decide on whether to decline jurisdiction or not.
In a short ruling, Justice Oriji held that from what the bailiff told the court, service was not affected personally by the respondent.
The judge held that the bailiff should have insisted on serving the respondent personally, saying the fact that the bailiff did not see him personally “raises the question of invalid service.
“The issue is not that he has not received it, but that it was not served on him personally.
“In the light of the doubt on personal service, what is left for the court to do is to set aside the service.
“The purported service of the processes is hereby set aside,” the judge said.
He, however, refused the prayer to decline jurisdiction over the matter.
The judge made an order that fresh hearing notice along with the originating motion is served on Fani-Kayode.
He adjourned the matter until April 21 for a hearing.