A Federal High Court Judge, Lagos has vacated the interim order which suspended the proceedings of a coroner’s inquest into the crash of Dana Air plane in Iju-Ishaga area of Lagos State earlier in the year.
The presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling on Friday, also struck out an application for interlocutory injunction seeking to stop the proceedings of the inquest pending the hearing of the substantive suit.
The Judge noted that the issues raised in support and against the application for interlocutory injunction were “substantially the same” and as such granting it would amount to impinging on the substance of the substantive suit.
The plaintiffs, a non-governmental organisation, the Civil Aviation Round Table Initiative and its President, Captain Dele Ore, challenged the powers of the coroner to conduct any inquest into the cause of the plane crash.
The judge had, on August 28 with the consent of the counsel of all the parties in the suit, granted the interim order to put the proceedings of the inquest on hold pending the hearing of the application for injunction.
In his ruling on the application on Friday, Justice Abang struck out the application and discharged the interim order.
“I could not agree with the learned counsel for the plaintiff, Collins Ogbonna, that the refusal of the application will foist on the court a situation of fait accompli” Justice Abang stated.
“This is because if the plaintiffs at the end of the day succeed in their claim, all the steps taken by the 1st to 4th defendants will set aside and accordingly nullified.
He therefore ruled that the “accelerated hearing of the suit is hereby ordered”, adding that “the interim order I made on August 28 is hereby discharged and is accordingly vacated.”
According to Justice Abang, “the issues raised by the parties for and in opposition in the application for interlocutory injunction are substantially the same issues raised by the parties in support and in opposition in the main originating summons.”
“If I decide on the issue raised by the plaintiffs now, the court would have decided the main matter in an interlocutory application without hearing all the parties in the suit.”
He also awarded the cost of N10,000 against the applicants, in favour of the 1st to 4th defendants who had opposed the application.
The 1st to 4th defendants who opposed the application are the coroner presiding over the inquest, Mr. Oyetade Komolafe, the Lagos State Chief Coroner, the state Chief Judge, and the Attorney-General of the state.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, the Ministry of Aviation, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Accident Investigation Bureau, the Nigeria Airspace Management Authority, and Dana Air are the 5th to 10th defendants.
Dana, a defendant in the suit, had filed an affidavit in support of the plaintiff’s application, a development which Abang described as “novel”.
Abang, who had admitted the affidavit after overruling counsel for the 1st to 4th, Mr. Akinjide Bakare, disregarded the affidavit in his ruling holding that “there is no provision in the rules of this court that allows the defendant to use such affidavit.”
He adjourned till October for the hearing of pending applications for joinder as parties in the suit.