Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed August 19, 2109, to deliver its ruling in a suit seeking to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from inaugurating the 43 ministerial nominees.
The suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/878/19, is challenging the exclusion of an FCT indigene from his cabinet list.
Mr. Musa Baba-Panya, an Abuja-based legal practitioner is contending that the minimum requirement of the constitution which is at least one minister each from the 36 states including FCT, making a total of 37, has not been fulfilled by the president.
Baba-Panya who is also an indigene of Karu in the FCT, had moved via an ex parte motion, asking the court to stop the president from going ahead on the inauguration.
The lawyer had argued that President Buhari’s action was contrary to an Appeal Court’s judgment delivered on March 15, 2018.
Listed as defendants in the suit are President Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
The president had fixed the inauguration of his ministers who were earlier confirmed by the Senate for August 21.
According to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the inauguration would hold at the Federal Executive Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
However, in his suit, Baba-panya argued that the Appeal Court’s ruling was a compelling order which he said, was served on the president through the AGF.
In an originating summon dated August 7, 2019, and filed on August 8, the plaintiff/applicant argued that ”the 43 confirmed ministerial appointees now awaiting swearing-in or inauguration as of members the Federal Executive Council is incomplete, illegal, unconstitutional, null, void and of no effect whatsoever.’
”The 1st defendant (Buhari) stands in contempt of law and court for his brazen refusal to comply with the tenor of the Abuja Division of Court of Appeal’s judgment of 15/1/2018 compelling him to the immediate and forthwith appointment off an indigene of FCT, Abuja, as minister of the federation,” he said.
Baba-panya, prayed the court to grant an interim injunction restraining the president from inaugurating the confirmed ministers-designate pending the determination of the motion on notice.
He said allowing the president to go on with his decision would mean that ”he is going to constitute an illegal cabinet.”
According to him, the violation of the FCT indigene’s rights to ministerial representation has been going on since May 29, 1999.
”So, it is not a personal issue. All previous presidents have also violated our rights,” he said.
He said despite the fact that President Buhari presently has 43 ministerial-designate, he was yet to meet ”the minimum requirement of the constitution which is at least one minister each from the 36 states including FCT, making a total of 37.”
Alternatively, he prayed the court to issue an order on the Mr President and the AGF to come and show course why it should not issue an interim injunction.”
In his reliefs, he prayed the court to determine ”whether the 1st defendant is an offender of the Oath of Allegiance and Office, and a contemptnor of a valid court judgment and the rule of law.
”Whether 1st defendant is no longer a fit and proper person to continue holding or remain in the office as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and if so what consequences?
”Whether damages and costs are not only warranted but same are to be so awarded.”
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, therefore, ordered that the suit should commence during the vacation period of the court.
The judge struck out the initial application restraining the Senate from conducting the confirmation of the ministerial nominees as prayed by the plaintiff, and adjourned the matter till August 19 for ruling.