A group of concerned stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime industry at the weekend dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to court, accusing him of prematurely extending the tenure of Hadiza Bala Usman as the managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).
President Buhari had on January 21, 2021, through his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, announced the re-appointment of Usman as the MD of the NPA for another five years, six months before the expiration of her initial five-year tenure.
In the suit filed on Thursday, March 25, 2021, the group, led by Elder Asu Beks, CEO, Maritime Media Limited, challenged the powers of President Buhari in hastily reappointing Usman to her position as managing director of the NPA. Other plaintiffs in the suit are Mr Tompra Abarowei and Mr Miebi Senge.
The group, who argued that the president’s action was in contravention of the statutory provisions of the NPA Act and the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, believes that Usman’s premature tenure elongation would set a fertile ground for litigation, as the action was illegal, wrongful, null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
The plaintiffs held that the newly-constituted board of the NPA has no representative of the Ministry of Transportation as enshrined in the statutes of the NPA Act.
They also argued that the statement issued by Adesina was silent on the role of the three executive directors as required by the law; while the reconstitution of the board reflected complete disregard for professionalism and requisite expertise in shipping and ancillary maritime matters for its members.
Some of the questions put forward by the plaintiffs for determination include:
“Whether the 1st defendant in the discharge of his statutory duties has the vires under Section 2 and 10 of the NPA Act to lawfully and prematurely re-appoint the 3rd defendant to her position as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) six clear months before the expiration of her existing tenure of office.
“Whether the acts of the 1st defendant in the appointment and composition of the NPA board are not illegal, wrongful, unlawful, unconscionable, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever.”
In the 19-point affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiffs averred that the NPA Act is the enabling Act that governs the NPA and it stipulates the composition and membership of the board and that such is not based on geopolitical zones as the present board suggests.
They, therefore, posited that the actions of President Buhari were clearly outside and in excess of the provisions of the NPA Act.
The suit marked Number: FHC/L/CS/485/2021 was instituted on behalf of the group by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, Chambers. Apart from President Buhari, other defendants in the court action are the Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi; the Managing Director of the NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala Usman; and the Chairman, Board of NPA, Mr Emmanuel Adesoye.
The defendants are said to have been served respectively.