Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja has voided the directive by the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to universities to register their security departments with it, failing which the institutions would be shut and their Vice Chancellors arrested.
Justice Evelyn Maha, in a judgement, held that the NSCDC was not empowered by any law to regulate activities of the security department of any university in Nigeria.
Justice Maha held that if the National Assembly wanted the NSCDC to have control over activities of universities and their security departments, the Legislature would have made law to that effect.
The judgment was on a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1032/2019 filed by the University of Calabar (UNICAL) and its Vice Chancellor.
The plaintiffs claimed that sometime in August 2019, the NSCDC wrote a letter to the University of Calabar, a statutory body established by the University of Calabar Act 1979, demanding that the university should register its security department as a Private Guard Company or the NSCDC will enter the university and arrest the Vice Chancellor and the institution’s other staff for ostensibly breaking the law.
On receiving the NSCDC’s letter, the institution asked its lawyer, Emmanuel Umoren to write a reply to the letter, which he did.
Upon its receipt of the university’s reply, the NSCDC issued a 14-day notice for the university to obey the directive, failing which it will close down the school and arrest its staff.
The threat made the university to sue in a bid to determine its rights as a body created by statute vis a vis the directive from NSCDC.
Defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Minister of Interior and NSCDC.
In the judgment delivered on February 20, 2020, a certified true copy (CTC) of which was sighted in Abuja on Wednesday, Justice Maha granted the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs$
The judge struck down Paragraph 25 of the Private Guards Companies Regulation (PGCR), 2018 which gave the NSCDC powers to compel persons generally carrying on security work to register as private guards companies.
She held that the portion of PGCR was ultra vires the powers donated by the National Assembly to the Minister of Interior (NSCDC’s supervising Minister) under the Private Guard Companies Act.
Justice Maha proceeded to declare that the 1st plaintiff’s (UNICAL’s) security department, by its nature and being an apparatus of an organisation established by an Act of the National Assembly, University of Calabar Act, 1979, does not fall within the jurisdictional scope and or category of persons and/or bodies to be regulated by the 3rd defendant and cannot therefore be required and or compelled to be registered and/or licensed by the 3rd defendant.
She also declared that the 2018 Private Guard Companies Regulations (PGCR), do not confer authority on the 3rd defendant to regulate the activities of University of Calabar.
The judge further declared that the Private Guard Companies Act, Cap P30, LFN 2004, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Act, Cap N146, LFN 2004 would have been amended by the National Assembly to enable the defendants, especially the 3rd defendant regulate activities of the 1st plaintiff, if it was the intention of the Legislature.
Justice Maha granted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants jointly and severally, whether by themselves or through their officers and members from embarking on any action against the 1st plaintiff’s security department, including but not limited to sealing up the 1st plaintiff under the guise of purportedly enforcing the provisions of the Private Guard Companies Act, Cap P30, LFN 2004, the Private Guard Companies Regulations 2018 and therefore disturbing the 1st plaintiff and its security department in the discharge of its lawful duties.
The judge equally granted an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the defendants jointly and severally, whether by themselves or through their officers and or agents, from embarking on any action against the plaintiffs including but not limited to the arrest and prosecution of the 2nd plaintiff and any other officer or staff or agent of the 1st plaintiff under the guise of purportedly and unlawfully enforcing the provisions of the Private Guard Companies Act, Cap P30, LFN 2004, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps Act, Cap N146, LFN 2004, the Private Guard Companies Regulations 2018 and therefore disturbing the 1st plaintiff and its security department in the discharge of their lawful duties.
“A declaration is hereby made that Paragraph 23 of the Private Guard Companies Regulation, 2018, is null and void and of no effect and struck out,” the judge held.