Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
An anti-corruption group, Centre for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (CHURAC), has approached a Delta State High Court in Warri to nullify the appointment by the state Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, of Hon. Michael Diden, popularly known as Ejele, as the Chairman of the board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC).
In suit No: W/154/2019, the rights body faulted the appointment of Diden as DESOPADEC chairman considering the fact that the former Chairman of the board, Chief Godwin Ebosa, hails from the same ethnic nationality (Itsekiri) with him as “it thus negates the provision of the Act establishing the interventionist agency.”
Joined as respondents in the suit are the governor (1st Defendant); state Attorney-General (2nd Defendant); Speaker of the state House of Assembly (3rd Defendant), and DESOPADEC Chairman, Hon. Michael Diden (4th Defendant).
In a statement issued by a member of the Board of Trustee (BoT) and Publicity Secretary of the group, Mr. Oyinkedi Fuofegha, it said the case has been slated for hearing today at the state high court in Warri.
It argued that Okowa, by virtue of the provisions of Section 7(1) a, b and c and (2)a and b of the DESOPADEC law 2015 (as amended in 2019), cannot validly appoint the Diden (4th Defendant) as chairman of the commission when the governor had previously appointed the former chairman from the same Itsekiri ethnic nationality.
The suit filed on behalf of the claimant by its counsel, J.P Oromoni, is seeking the declaration of the court to compel Okowa (1st Defendant) to withdraw the appointment of Diden (4th Defendant) as ‘he was not qualified’ to be appointed as board chairman pending the determination of the substantive suit.
According to CHURAC, “That by virtue of the provisions of Section 15(1), (2) a and b and (3) of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC) law 2015 (as amended in 2019) the 1st defendant cannot nominate for appointment any person as a member of the governing board of DESOPADEC whose ethnic nationality produced the immediate past board member of the same office.
“Appointing the 4th defendant as chairman from Itsekiri tribe into the governing board of the commission, having earlier appointed one Godwin Ebosa as chairman of the governing board of the commission from the same Itsekiri ethnic nationality in 2015, is an aberration.”
The group further prayed the court that by virtue of Sections 2, 7(1) a, b and c and (2) and Section 15(1), (2) a and b and (3) of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission law 2015 (as amended in 2019), no ethnic nationality who has produced or is producing either the chairman, the managing director or the executive directors can succeed itself without following the rotational circle as provided in the DESOPADEC law.
It further urged the court to “compel the defendants to put up an appearance within 30 days after service of this summons on them, inclusive of the day of such service, to be entered for them and file any other process in response to this summons, which is issued upon the application of the originating summons of the claimant.”
Diden was sworn in as chairman of the board of DESOPADEC by the governor on July 31 in Asaba along with 16 other members of the commission’s board.