By Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has held that the appointment of President Muhammadu Buhari as Minister of Petroleum Resources did not contravene provisions of the country’s constitution.
According to the judge, Buhari’s appointment would have been illegal but for the appointment of Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as Minister of State, who oversees the day-to-day running of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Justice Mohammed made the declaration while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba.
Justice Mohammed, in the judgment held that, “the phrase ‘hold’ as contained in S. 138 meant to preside, act, to possess, occupy or conduct the actual day to day running of the office.
According to the judge, Buhari by proclaiming or announcing that he was the Minister for Petroleum was not enough to conclude that he holds the office of Minister.
Justice Mohammed maintained that if the president had not appointed someone (Kachikwu) to see to the day to day running of the office, the court’s decision would have been different.
“Unless it can be shown that the President is directly conducting, directing, occupying the office of the Petroleum Minister then, it can be said that the President actually holds the office of the Petroleum Minister,” the court held.
Buhari appointed Ibe Kachikwu as Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, and made himself the senior Minister.
This led the Senior lawyer to drag him before the Abuja High Court seeking an order of court nullifying Buhari’s appointment as Minister of Petroleum Resources.
In the suit No. ABJ/CS/1005/2017, Agbakoba prayed the court to determine if Buhari could hold the position of Minister without the confirmation of the National Assembly.
He said the chaos at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) would not have happened if the President was not Petroleum Minister.
“I verily believe that the governance chaos in the NNPC could not have occurred if the president is not also the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
“I am aware that the NNPC provides up to 90 per cent of the revenue accruing to Nigeria.
“I am worried that the crisis in the NNPC will greatly reduce Nigeria’s revenue-generating capacity and will affect the revenue distributable to federal, state and local governments in Nigeria,” he submitted.
Agbakoba, who is a former National President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said the chaos would gravely affect development nationwide and drastically impact one and all Nigerians including those in Anambra State (his state of origin) and Lagos State (his state of residence).
“I looked at section 138 of the 1999 Constitution and I verily believe it disqualifies the president from holding executive office including that of the Minister of Petroleum, during his tenure of office as president.
“I also know that the president did not go through nomination process and confirmation by the senate, before holding the office of Minister of Petroleum Resources.
“I again looked at section 147(2) of the 1999 constitution and I verily believe it prohibits anybody from holding the office of a minister of the federation, without confirmation by the senate”, he argued.