By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, gave the National Assembly, 30 days to respond to the suit that elder statesmen and leaders of socio-cultural groups in the Southern and Middle Belt regions of the country, filed to challenge alleged lopsided appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The sixteen elder statesmen told the court that most appointments President Buhari made since the inception of his administration in 2015, were in breach of the 1999 Constitution and the Federal Character Principle.
The plaintiffs, led by Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Dr. John Nnia Nwodo, Dr Pogu Bittus, Chief Ago Adebanjo, Alaowei Bozimo, Mrs Sarah Doketri, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and
Air Commodore Idongsit Nkanga, alleged that the Southern and Middle Belt regions have been deliberately marginalized by the President Buhari-led government.
They are praying the court to among other things, determine whether it was not “reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria”, for President Buhari to obtain a loan facility from the Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank, the World Bank, China, Japan and Germany amounting to $22.7 billion (USD), for infrastructural development, only to allocate the bulk of the fund to the Northern region.
They are seeking a declaration that the loan facility purportedly for infrastructural development wherein less than 1% of the amount is to be allocated to the South East Zone of Nigeria for specific infrastructural development, violates section 16 (1) (a) (b) and S16 (2) (a) (b) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
As well as, “A declaration that the 1st Defendant’s procurement of any loan which would increase Nigeria’s outstanding debt by up to 30% of its GDP or which would increase its interest payment above 50% of government revenue is unconstitutional”.
Other plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020, are Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof Julie Umukoro, Elder Stephen Bangoji, Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs Rose Obuoforibo, Mr Adakole Ijogi and Dr. Charles Nwakeaku.
Aside from President Buhari, also listed as 2nd to 4th Defendants in the matter are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Clerk of National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission.
When the matter came up on Wednesday, Justice Okon Abang, gave the NASS which has been included as the 5th Defendant the leave to file its response.
The court also directed the AGF to regularize his own process which it noted was filed out of time, even as the case was adjourned till January 13, 2021, for hearing.
Specifically, the Plaintiffs, in the suit they filed through a consortium of lawyers comprising of 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria led by Chief Solomon Asemota, SAN, and Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, are further praying the court to determine:
“Whether the power to appoint designated public officers including permanent secretaries, principal representatives of Nigeria abroad, which is vested in the 1st Defendant has been lawfully exercised by him since the inception of his administration from 2015 till date and Whether his actions are in breach of Sections 171(5), 814(3) (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“Whether the power to appoint Nigeria’s Armed Services Chiefs, other Commanders or top officials of the respective Armed Forces Higher and High Commands’ General Staff ; namely the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) and Chief of Airforce Staff (CA8); the other statutorily established Nigerian National Security agencies or services , namely: The Inspector General of the Nigerian Police (1GP), the Directors General (DGs) of the State Security Service (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA); the Heads of National Security Associated Federal Government (FG) establishments, namely the Nigerian Civil Defense and Security Corps (NCDSC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigerian Customs and Excise Service, the Nigerian Immigration Services (NIS), the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCS), the National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), the National Youth Service corps (NYSC), the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Ministers of Defense, Interior, Police and the respective National Security ministries’ Permanent Secretaries’ which is vested in the 1st Defendant, has been lawfully exercised by the 1st Defendant since the inception of his administration and whether these appointments are in compliance with 81(2), 814(3)(4), 8217(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“Whether by virtue of Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which vests the Executive arm of government with a constitutional responsibility and obligation to execute and uphold the tenets of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), particularly the country’s national interest, sovereignty and security is not violated by the lopsided nature of the current appointments into Federal agencies are parastatals made by the 1st Defendant.
“Whether the 1st Defendant’s frequent arbitrary extension/elongation of appointment tenure beyond statutory prescription is not unconstitutional and inimical to the wellbeing, morale and harmony within the government workforce?
“Whether the 1st Defendant’s frequent appointment of retired persons instead of the most senior staff, is unconstitutional and tantamount to an abuse of office and threat to national unity?
Upon determination of the questions, the plaintiffs prayed the court to declare, “That the present composition of the government of the federation, and most of its agencies especially as regards the composition of its security and quasi-security architecture do not reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria but rather there is a predominance of persons from a few States and sectional groups dominating the opportunities and threatening national unity and integration.
“A declaration that the various appointments into positions in government, especially into strategic government agencies such as NNPC, NIA and other strategic infrastructural and regulatory institutions are ethnically discriminatory and lopsided and these violate the express provisions of the constitution as contained in Sections 14, 171 (1), 171 (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)and therefore unconstitutional, illegal and ultra vires.
“A declaration that the country’s security architecture is in substantial, noncompliance, nonconformity and violation of Sections 217 (3), 218(2), 219 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and is therefore unconstitutional and ultra vires.
“A declaration that the 1st Defendant’s exercise of his power to make appointments as contained in S171 is not only governed by S171 (5) but also by the Public Service Rules, 2008. Consequently, the 1st Defendant’s indiscriminate and unlawful elongation of tenure of persons due for retirement and wanton extension of the tenure of heads of various government departments and agencies is also a violation of S14 (2), S15 (5) of the Constitution which prohibits abuse of power and promotes social justice.
“A declaration that the Defendants deliberate misinterpretation, misapplication and/ or non-application of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and other extant laws herein enumerated have marginalized, discriminated against, and treated citizens that the Plaintiffs represent as second class and inferior citizens in their own country.
“A declaration that Section 10 CFRN prohibits the government from passing laws, legislation or engaging in activities, programmes, and projects seen as establishing an official religion or preferring one religion over another in Nigeria.
“A declaration that the Defendants derive their powers from the Nigerian Constitution, and must act within the ambit of the supreme provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Consequently, actions taken by the respective organs of government in violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) are unconstitutional, ultra vires and null and void.
“A declaration that because the 1999 Constitution (as amended)is not suspended; it must be obeyed and adhered to.
“A declaration that Nigeria is a federal system of government, with federating states, and a Federal Capital Territory in accordance with Section 2(2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Therefore, any system of governance operated contrary or inconsistent with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) shall be deemed unconstitutional or illegal.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, whether by themselves, servants, agents and/or privies, howsoever, from further appointing persons from only favoured sections of the country as Heads of key government positions and security and quasi security agencies of Nigeria to the detriment and exclusion of other sections of the country.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Defendants, whether by themselves, servants, agents and their privies howsoever, from further violating the Public Service Rules 2008 and Armed Forces Act 2004 by extending tenures of personnel who have reached retirement age in accordance with the law.
“An order directing the 1st Defendant to forthwith revert the lopsided appointments complained about in the security and quasi security agencies and immediately take steps to appoint persons from other states and geopolitical zones, in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“An order directing the 1st Defendant to forthwith reverse the lopsided appointments made in the public service, diplomatic service and other principal Representatives of Nigeria abroad.
“An order suspending any further admission of Africans into Nigeria without e-visas, the requisite visas or e-migrant visas, until the adequate border control guidelines, training and bilateral reciprocity and waivers are agreed upon”.
Besides, the court was urged to award N50billion against the Defendants to represent punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages to the constituents of the Plaintiffs for the illegal, wrongful discriminatory and unconstitutional acts committed by the 1st Defendant against the people of the Plaintiffs’ states and geopolitical zones.
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