From Tony Osauzo, Benin and Godwin Tsa, Abuja
An Edo lawmaker-elect, Dr. Washington Osifo, has filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Benin, urging it to declare the appointment of sole administrator for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) “illegal, unconstitutional, null and void” as it negates the provision of the Act setting up the Commission.
The defendants in the suit marked FHC/B/CS/9/2021 are the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senate President, Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio, the NDDC and the newly appointed sole administrator, Effion Akwa,
The plaintiff is contending that the Federal Government cannot appoint Akwa or any other single individual to head the Commission in the absence of a properly constituted board to run the affairs of the NDDC.
Osifo who supported his documents with an eight- paragraph affidavit and written address is also seeking an order of the court restraining the NDDC, the National Assembly from appropriating funds or approving budgets for the Commission until the Board of the NDDC is properly constituted.
He also wants “an order restraining the fifth defendant (Akwa) from parading himself as the administrator of the NDDC, which position is unknown to the laws setting up the NDDC.”
However, the Abuja division of the federal High Court has struck out a suit challenging the legitimacy of the Interim Management Committee (IMC).
The court predicated its judgment on the grounds that the plaintiffs, Comrade Itoldem Daghware, Bishop Chuck Johnson, Mr. Akinterinwa Julius and the Registered Trustees of Niger Delta Youth Forum (for themselves as elders of oil producing communities of Ilaje, Umuorji, Ojahiegbema) and Uhrobo in the Niger-Delta region lacked the requisite locus standi (legal rights) to institute the action.
Justice Inyang Ekwo who delivered the judgment consequently upheld the preliminary objection filed by the defendants that the plaintiffs having lacked the locus standi, cannot question any perceived infraction of the provisions of the NDDC Act.
He specifically said only persons listed in Section 2(1) of the NDDC Act, could be considered as stakeholders and could be directly affected by any infraction of the Act by any appointing authority that can challenge any perceived violation of the law.
Justice Ekwo said the Plaintiffs not being persons captured in the aforementioned section of Act, they lacked the legal rights to challenge any alleged infraction of the NDDC Act in court.
“If there is any breach or infraction of the provisions of the NDDC Act, it is the stakeholders or any of them specifically mentioned in Section 2 (1) thereof that is clothed with locus standi to take an action.
“Going by the grouse of the plaintiffs, as stated in the sole question for determination, I do not see any lacuna in the NDDC Act that would enable any person not mentioned in Section 2 (1)(b) thereof to claim to be acting in the interest of either any person mentioned in the provision or not so mentioned.
“Let me put it more specifically for the purpose of clarity. It is my opinion that the effect of the provisions of S. 2 (1) (b) of the NDDC Act is that there can be no action by proxy for them.