FG’s Decision to Borrow $22.7bn against National Interest, Southern Leaders Tell Court

  • Say two permanent secretaries appointed against civil service rules

Gboyega Akinsanmi

The leaders of socio-cultural groups in Southern Nigeria have told a Federal High Court in Abuja that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s proposal to borrow from sovereign lenders and multilateral financial institutions is reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria.

Also, they have asked the court to declare illegal the proclamation of the president to the effect that all Africans are endowed to enter Nigeria by land, sea or air on arrival, describing it as a circumvention of the existing legislation against the safety and security of Nigerians at large.

In a written address filed by their counsel, Elder Solomon Asemota (SAN), Chief Tunji Ayanlaja, Chief Chuks Muoma and 13 others, the leaders told the court how the president consecutively breached provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which he was sworn in to defend.

Among others, the Southern leaders, who sued the president, comprise the Convener, Pan Niger Delta, Chief Edwin Clark; Leader of Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; President, Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr. John Nwodo; an Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and a former Anambra State Governor, Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife.

The leaders had instituted a N50 billion suit against the President before a Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), Public Service Rules 2008, Armed Forces Act 2004, Immigration Act 2015 and the ECOWAS Protocol, among others.

Listed as defendants are the president, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the Clark of the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission (FCC).

They accused Buhari of flagrant violation of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) in some of his appointments and decisions.

In their written address, the leaders raised issues on the arbitrary handling of matters that touch the fiscal and infrastructure distribution, immigration laws and the prohibition of adoption of any religion as state religion.

Specifically, they asked the court to determine whether it was not reckless and adverse “to the interest of Nigeria for the President to seek and 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 infrastructure development.”

The leaders further pointed out that the president went ahead with the proposal to borrow $22.7 billion despite the warning from finance experts that the debts would rise to almost 36 percent of GDP by 2024 and in the light of the imminent global recession as a result of the COVID-19.

They, also, argued that the $22.7 billion loan purportedly meant for infrastructure development allocated as follows: $5 billion (26%) for nationwide development, North-east 24%; Northwest 13%; North-central 7%; South-south 17%; South-west 13% and South-east less than 1% “blatantly offend the equitable distribution principle contained in section 16 (2)(b-c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

Besides, they argued that the proclamation of the president that all Africans were entitled to enter Nigeria by land, sea or air on arrival was a circumvention of the existing legislation against the safety, security and welfare of Nigerian citizens, which he swore to protect.

Consistent with section 12 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the leaders pointed out that Items 9 and 42 of the Exclusive Legislative List and ECOWAS Protocol, Immigration Law 2015 and Immigration Regulations 2017 provide for immigration procedure into Nigeria.

However, they noted that the president, in Egypt without regard to these existing laws and protocol, invited all Africans to proceed to Nigeria, whether by land, sea or air where they can obtain visa on arrival, thereby widening the inflow of foreigners into Nigeria, especially on foot without the safety net, which was envisioned by the introduction of e-migrant register.

The southern leaders argued that the president did not have the constitutional power to device acts to empower foreigners to enter Nigeria without legislative approval consultation, adequate training and provision of infrastructure to cope with the resultant influx.

The leaders, also, claimed that the president in exercising his presidential powers “has exhibited and demonstrated a total disregard for sections 171 and 218 (1-2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) whereby the Public Service Rules 2008 and the Armed Forces Act 2004 are completely violated contrary to the oath of office, which he swore to uphold.

“For example, the appointment of the current Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Power is a total infraction of the Public Service Rules 2008. Both of them were never civil servants,” they told the court in their written address filed in support of application.

The leaders equally noted that extension of tenure and length of service of serving public servants after attainment of mandatory retirement age of 60 years or 35 years of length of service had been viciously infracted contrary to the Public Service Rules, 2008.

“At present, all the Heads of the Armed Formed Forces have all passed the statutory retirement ages, but are still retained in service through re-appointment by the president. Therefore, beyond disregarding the federal character principle, the president has violated the Armed Forces Condition of Service made pursuant to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“The appointment of retired officers above competent and qualified serving officers, Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service; Director-General, Department of State Services and Director-General, National Intelligence Agency is yet another fundamental violation of the relevant extant laws and regulations. All of them were recruited to head and boss serving and competent officers.

“The roles of the Armed Forces are entrenched in the 1999 Constitution (as amended) where the president violates any of the provisions in section 217 of the 1999 Constitution, he threatens the ability of the Armed Forces to defend the territorial integrity and stability of the country,” the leaders pointed out.

They cited the provisions of section 10 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which according to them, were closely related to those of the First Amendment to the American Constitution.

They claimed that the provisions “not only forbid the government from establishing an official religion, but also prohibit government actions that unduly favour one religion over another. They also protect and prohibit the government from unduly preferring religion over non-religion or non-religion over religion.

“The destruction of Christian houses of worship, lopsided appointments in government, composition of the federal cabinet, situation of federal projects and programmes, and the non-inclusion of Canon Law Courts in the Nigerian Constitution is tantamount to wholesome discrimination on the ground of religion, social justice, and inequality indicative of the fact the arbitrary and capricious control of the national economy by a few along ethno-religious line,” they argued in their written address.