Southern Leaders Sue Buhari over Alleged Breach of Federal Character

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•Seek N50bn compensation

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Some leaders of the Southern region yesterday have filed a suit at the Federal High Court to challenge President Muhammadu Buhari’s alleged marginalisation in appointments made by his administration since 2015.

The leaders, in the suit filed on their behalf by 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) led by Chief Solomon Asemota and Chief Mike Ozekhome, are asking the court to fine the president and three other defendants in the suit N50 billion for allegedly violating provisions of the 1999 Constitution(as amended) and the federal character principle.

Those sued alongside the president include the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Clerk of National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission (FCC).

The plaintiffs, led by 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 Idongesit Nkanga (rtd), accused the Buhari administration of deliberately marginalising the South.
Other plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020, are Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof. Julie Umukoro, Mr. Stephen Bangoji, Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs. Rose Obuoforibo, Mr. Adakole Ijogi and Dr. Charles Nwakeaku.

According to them, the present composition of the government of the federation, and most of its agencies, especially as regards the composition of the security and quasi-security agencies, do not reflect the federal character principle.

They added that there is a predominance of persons from a few states and sectional groups in positions of authority and consequently threatening national unity and integration.
Some of the issues brought before the court for determination include whether it was not “reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria” for the president 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, for infrastructural development, only to allocate the bulk of the fund to the North.

The plaintiffs also want the court to declare that the loan facility purportedly for infrastructural development wherein less than one per cent of the amount is to be allocated to the South-east for specific infrastructural development, violates Section 16 (1) (a) (b) and S16 (2) (a) (b) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

In addition, they want the court to declare that the first defendant’s procurement of any loan, which would increase Nigeria’s outstanding debt by up to 30 per cent of its GDP or which would increase its interest payment above 50 per cent of government revenue is unconstitutional.

Some of the questions they want the court to answer are that: “Whether the power to appoint designated public officers, including permanent secretaries, principal representatives of Nigeria abroad, which is vested in the first 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 Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) and Chief of Airforce Staff (CAS); the other statutorily established Nigerian national security agencies or services , namely: the Inspector General of the Nigerian Police (1G), the Directors General (DGs) of the Department of State Services (DSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA); the heads of national security associated federal government (FG) establishments, namely the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Nigeria Customs 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 Defence, Interior, Police and the respective national security ministries’ permanent secretaries’ which is vested in the first defendant’s, has been lawfully exercised by the first 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).

“Whether by virtue of Section 5 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which vests the executive arm of government with a constitutional responsibility and obligation to execute and uphold the tenets of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), particularly the country’s national interest, sovereignty and security is not violated by the lopsided nature of the current appointments into federal agencies and parastatals made by the first defendant.

“Whether the first defendant’s frequent arbitrary extension/elongation of appointment tenure beyond statutory prescription is not unconstitutional and inimical to the wellbeing, morale and harmony within the government workforce?
“Whether the first defendant’s frequent appointment of retired persons instead of the most senior staff, is unconstitutional and tantamount to an abuse of office and threat to national unity?”
Upon determination of the questions, the plaintiffs prayed the court to declare: “That the present composition of the government of the federation, and most of its agencies especially as regards the composition of its security and quasi-security architecture do not reflect the federal character of Nigeria but rather there is a predominance of persons from a few states and sectional groups dominating the opportunities and threatening national unity and integration.

“A declaration that the various appointments into positions in government, especially into strategic government agencies such as NNPC, NIA and other strategic infrastructural and regulatory institutions are ethnically discriminatory and lopsided and these violate the express provisions of the constitution as contained in Sections 14, 171 (1), 171 (5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and therefore unconstitutional, illegal and ultra vires.

“A declaration that the country’s security architecture is in substantial, non-compliance, non-conformity and violation of Sections 217 (3), 218(2), 219 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and is therefore unconstitutional and ultra vires.”

The plaintiffs said if the above questions were answered in the affirmative, the court should grant “An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, servants, agents and/or privies, howsoever, from further appointing persons from only favoured sections of the country as heads of key government positions and security and quasi-security agencies of Nigeria to the detriment and exclusion of other sections of the country.

“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendants, whether by themselves, servants, agents and their privies howsoever, from further violating the Public Service Rules 2008 and Armed Forces Act 2004 by extending tenures of personnel who have reached retirement age in accordance with the law.

“An order directing the first defendant to forthwith revert the lopsided appointments complained about in the security and quasi-security agencies and immediately take steps to appoint persons from other states and geopolitical zones, in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.

“An order directing the first defendant to forthwith reverse the lopsided appointments made in the public service, diplomatic service and other principal representatives of Nigeria abroad.
“An order suspending any further admission of Africans into Nigeria without e-visas, the requisite visas or e-migrant visas, until the adequate border control guidelines, training and bilateral reciprocity and waivers are agreed upon.”

Besides, the court was urged 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 first defendant against the people of the plaintiffs’ states and geopolitical zones.
However, when the matter came up yesterday, Justice Okon Abang directed Ozekhome, who represented the plaintiffs, to serve the court processes on all the defendants and fixed July 10 for hearing.