Former Son-in-Law Drags Senator Goje, Daughter to Court over Child’s Custody

Sen. Danjuma Goje
Faruk, a son of the first military governor of North-Western State from 1967 to 1975,  Alhaji Usman Faruk, is praying the court to issue an order compelling his erstwhile father-in-law, Goje, and his former wife, Fatima, to return his daughter from London back to the country to enable her continue with her studies in Nile University of Nigeria, Abuja.The plaintiff is also seeking an order of the court restraining the defendants from taking any of his three children outside Abuja without his consent or meddling in their affairs.

He told the court that Fatima Goje, his ex-wife whom he got married to under Islamic law on December 20, 1997 and was constrained to divorce on August 31, 2014, conspired with her father to take his daughter to London against his wish that her daughter, who is a 300-level Civil Engineering student, should complete her first degree course in Nigeria.

But counsel to the defendants, Kennedy Anoba, challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the suit on the ground that since it also relates to the international passport of the plaintiffs daughter, the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the matter.

In a letter dated November 6, 2017, Faruk had also urged the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to stop the defendants from taking her daughter out of the country, which is part of what he is praying the court to enforce.

Based on point of law, the defendants’ counsel argued that, while the only agency that has the right to issue and revoke the passport of a Nigerian citizen is the NIS,  it is only the Federal High Court that has the jurisdiction on matters relating to the NIS by virtue of section 251 of the 1999 constitution as amended.

Anuba also contended that since the plaintiff’s daughter who is an adult, having clocked the age of 18, and whose passport is in contention is not joined as a party in the case, it robs the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

But counsel to the plaintiff, Mohammed Shuaib, averred that the defense counsel misconceived the matter before the court, noting that it is not basically about the withdrawal of an international passport but the protection of the plaintiff’s right to guardianship.

He contended that it is within the jurisdiction of the court to ask the CG of the NIS to stop the defendants from frustrating the case bordering on child custody before it, just as he noted that the plaintiff’s daughter must not necessarily be a party in a matter under Islamic personal law. “This is not common law; it is Islamic personal law. That is why special courts like this are created. If it is a matter of inheritance, she would have been a necessary party but on a case of her guardianship, she is not a necessary party. It is the defendants who are infringing on the rights of the plaintiff that are necessary parties”.

On the claim by the defense counsel that the plaintiff’s daughter is no more a child, having clocked the adult age of 18, Shuaib said the matter borders on Islamic law under which, until the plaintiff’s daughter gets married, the plaintiff still maintains the right to guardianship over her, “even if she is as old as Methuselah”.

After hearing the submissions of both parties on the issue of jurisdiction, the judge adjourned the matter to January 25, 2018 for ruling on whether or not he has the power to entertain the case.

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