Tenure Elongation: Court Asked to Sack Hajj Commission Chairman


Alex Enumah in Abuja

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has been asked to sack the Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Malam Abdullahi Muhammad, over his alleged unlawful stay in office.

The legal action was occasioned by the alleged illegal extension of the tenure of Muhammad earlier in the year by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The president had in May this year extended the tenure of the chairman and that of the members of the board of the Commission by six months at the expiration of their second and final tenure of office.

Not pleased with the alleged illegal act of President Buhari, a Kano-based travel agency operator, Malam Masu’d Muazu, approached the court for an order declaring as unlawful and un-constitutional the extension of the tenure of office of the beneficiaries.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2019 filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Ibrahim Alhassan, the court was asked to hold that the president’s action violated section 171 of the 1999 section and section 5 of the National Hajj Commission FCT 2006.

Defendants in the suit are President Buhari, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Chairman of NAHCON, Muhammad, and NAHCON.

The plaintiff is praying the court for a declaration that the continued stay in office by Muhammad after the expiration of his second tenure of office is illegal and unconstitutional.

Among others, he asked the court to determine whether by the combine provisions of section 171 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and section 5(1) of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (Establishment) Act, 2006, the president has power to elongate the tenure of Muhammad beyond second term in the office.

In an 11 paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summon, the plaintiff averred that by section 5 of the NAHCON Act 2006, Muhammad is to hold office as a member or chairman of the Commission for two terms of four years each.

He claimed that Muhammad had previously served a tenure of four years as Executive Commissioner in charge of operations of the Commission from 2011 to 2015.

Muazu, who is the Chairman of Muntazam Travel Agency in Kano, claimed that former President Goodluck Jonathan granted another four year term to Muhammad in May 2015 and that the tenure finally lapsed on May 25, 2019.

Against the provisions of the law, the plaintiff asserted that the SGF, via a memo of March 25, 2019, to President Buhari, sought the extension of tenure of office for Muhammad, and that Buhari, acting on the memo, “granted six months tenure elongation in breach of the clear provision of the law that established the Commission.”

Plaintiff averred that the action of President Buhari amounted to an unlawful interference in the administration and management of the Hajj Commission, and that “the unlawful and unconstitutional stay in office of Muhammad has been affecting activities of his company.”

He, therefore, prayed for an order of the court compelling Muhammad to vacate office immediately having over-stayed lawful tenure of office as chairman of the Commission.

Meanwhile, the matter scheduled for last Friday, was however not heard owing to an official engagement of the trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, who doubles as acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.