Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A group of elder statesmen and leaders of socio-cultural platforms in southern Nigeria have slammed a N50 billion suit against President Muhammadu Buhari before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court over alleged lopsided appointments.
In the suit filed by their counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, the group led by 16 elders alleged that since the inception of his administration in 2015, President Buhari’s appointments contravened the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Federal Character Principle.
The elders listed in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020 include Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Dr John Nnia Nwodo, Dr Pogu Bittus, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alaowei Bozimo, Mrs Sarah Doketri, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife and Air Commodore Idongsit Nkanga.
Others are Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof Julie Umukoro, Elder Stephen Bangoji, Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs Rose Obuoforibo, Mr Adakole Ijogi and Dr Charles Nwakeaku.
The plaintiffs further alleged that the Southern region has been deliberately marginalised 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.’
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.
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).’
They urged the court to award N50 billion 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.
Meanwhile, Justice Okon Abang has fixed July 10 to hear the case, even as he directed Chief Ozekhome, SAN, who represented the plaintiffs on Monday to serve the court processes on all the Defendants.