The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, on Friday ordered that a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, be served afresh with the suit filed by his ex-wife, Precious Chikwendu, seeking the custody of their children.
Ms Chikwendu, a former beauty queen, alleged in her suit that Mr Fani-Kayode, ”beat her up on several occasions even while she was pregnant”.
She made the allegations in an affidavit she deposed to in support of his suit filed in line with Section 69 of the Child’s Rights Act, 2003.
She, therefore, demanded full custody of their four sons.
‘Fani-Kayode’s signature forged’
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the judge, S.C Oriji, on Friday, set aside an earlier service of the suit on Mr Fani-Kayode, after his counsel, Adeola Adedipe, said his client’s signature purportedly confirming receiving the previous service was forged.
Mr Adedipe prayed the court to decline jurisdiction on the matter and prayed for an order either striking out the suit or alternatively setting aside the earlier purported service of the processes filed by Ms Chikwendu on his client.
In his submission, the defence 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 in 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, Ms Chikwendu’s lawyer, Enohor Moi-Wuyep, prayed the court to dismiss Mr Fani-Kayode’s application.
According to Mrs Moi-Wuyep, the respondent was duly served, and there was a text message by the respondent 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, Mr Oriji held that from what the bailiff told the court, service was not effected personally on 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 be served on Mr Fani-Kayode.
He adjourned the matter until April 21 for hearing.
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