Alex Enumah in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, and four others have been dragged before a Federal High Court, Abuja, over their alleged unlawful interference in the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The suit brought by an aggrieved indigene of the Niger Delta region from Imo State, has President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and Minister of Justice, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as 1st to 5th respondents respectively.
The suit filed by an Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Felix Ekengba, claiming that the respondents lacked the legal powers to interfere in the day-to-day operations of the NDDC as it’s been done by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Umana Umana.
In the suit filed on August 19, the plaintiff accused the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs of unlawfully assuming the helms of affairs at the Commission, in contravention of the law.
Plaintiff in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1458/2022 therefore prayed the court for an order restraining the respondents from further interfering in the activities of the Commission.
Specifically, the plaintiff wants the court to bar Umana from further acting as NDDC’s MD or interfering with the agency’s operations since he has no power under any law to do so.
Other reliefs, sought by the plaintiff in the suit filed on behalf of himself, include a declaration that by virtue of Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2 of the NDDC’s Act, 2000, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry not being part of the persons mentioned in Section 2 of the NDDC’s Act cannot interfere or usurp the powers of the board and management of the commission without an amendment to the NDDC’s Act by the National Assembly.
Ekengba also applied for a declaration that the interference and intervention of the 3rd to 5th respondents, was contrary and in breach of Section 4 of the Constitution and Section 2 of the NDDC’s Act and that any purported acts done by them are unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and should be set aside.
He further sought another order of perpetual injunction restraining the 3rd to 5th respondents from interfering, usurping, controlling or issuing directives to the management and staff of the NDDC.
In a 16- paragraph affidavit he deposed to in support of the suit, Ekengba who claimed to be an environmental rights activist and a legal practitioner as well as an indigene of the Niger Delta region, asserted that he was being affected by the alleged unlawful interference of the Minister in the operations of the commission.
He further claimed that Buhari as Nigeria’ s President, who swore to uphold the provisions and tenet of the 1999 Constitution, was under obligations to ensure the enforcement and compliance with all Acts of the National Assembly, including that of the NDDC.
He further averred that the Minister of Niger Delta affairs was aiding and abetting the president in breaching the clear and extant provisions of the 1999 Constitution by seeking to interfere or usurp the powers of the board and management of the NDDC contrary to Section 4 of the 1999 Constitution and Section 2 of the NDDC’s Act.
Plaintiff asserted that Buhari by an administrative fiat allegedly amended the provisions of Section 2 of the NDDC’s Act by appointing the Niger Delta Minister, Niger Delta Ministry and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry as governing board members of the NDDC without amending the law to accommodate them.
He alleged that in carrying out the unconstitutional fiat, the Minister, Ministry and Permanent Secretary wrote a letter to the NDDC seeking to interfere and usurp the powers of the board on August 8, 2022 by requesting for personnel audit and bio-data of the commission.
The legal practitioner also asserted that the 3rd to 5th respondents inaugurated a committee on the compressive staff audit of the NDDC filed a letter of August 15, 2022, adding that the Minister on August 17, issued directives on the day-to-day running contrary to the clear position of the law.
Insisting that what the 3rd to 5th respondents were seeking to carry out was unconstitutional, the plaintiff prayed the court for an order restraining the respondents from interfering, usurping, controlling or issuing directives to the management and staff of the NDDC since doing so run contrary to section 4 of the Constitution.
Meanwhile no date has been fixed for hearing in the suit.