*Voids appointment of personal staff
Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah in Abuja
A Federal High Court in Warri, Delta State, has held that the Chairman of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Lauretta Onochie, has no executive powers in the day-to-day running of the commission.
The court, in a judgment delivered on May 9, consequently barred Onochie from further exercising any executive function in the Commission, and went ahead to void every executive function carried out by Onochie, including the appointment of her 18 personal aides.
Justice Okon Abang, who delivered the judgment held that the board chairman acted ultra vires when she assumed the task of the Managing Director of the NDDC, Chief Samuel Ogboku.
One Dr Mike Oberabor had dragged the NDDC, Onochie and Ogboku before the Federal High Court, seeking an interpretation of the NDDC Act, 2000 and other relevant statute and documents relating to the running of the commission.
Oberabor had sued for himself and on behalf of Oberabor Oreme-Egbede families of Olomoro Community in Isoko South local community of Delta State.
However, delivering judgment in the suit marked: FHC/WR/CS/14/2023, Abang held that after due consideration of the relevant provisions of the NDDC Act, 2000 and other documents, it was established that the appointment of the 2nd Defendant as the Chairman of the board of the 1st Defendant on part time basis is to oversee and preside over the meetings of the board.
He said “the defendant being the Managing Director of the 1st defendant, the Chief Executive Officer and Accounting Officer of the 1st defendant is saddled with the responsibility of the day-to-day running and management of the 1st defendant.”
A Certified True Copy of the enrolled order of the court obtained exclusively by THISDAY, showed that Onochie despite being served with originating processes, including hearing notice was absent in court and was not represented.
Amongst documents the court said it relied upon in arriving at its decision are the NDDC Act, 2000; the circular issued by the presidency on the revised frequency of meeting for part time members of Government Committees, Boards of Federal Agencies; Statutory Corporations and Government owned companies, and the circular issued by office of the Accountant General of the Federation dated 16/1/2023 on the subject matter of dispute between parties.
Part of the enrolled order read: “It is hereby adjudged, ordered and declared as follows, ‘That the 3rd Defendant as the Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission is the person statutorily empowered by the NDDC ACT to perform and wield the executive functions, powers and day to day running and management of the Commission to the exclusion of other members of the Board of the NDDC including the 2nd.
“That all actions of the 2nd Defendant including but not limited to the appointment of her personal aides carried out in exercise of executive functions and powers in the Niger Delta Development Commission since her assumption of duty on the 4th day of January, 2023 are ultra vires her powers and therefore null and void and of no effect whatsoever.
“That the 2nd Defendant is restrained from carrying out and/or exercising any executive functions and powers in the Niger Delta Development Commission, the 1st Defendant herein. The 2nd Defendant is further restrained from interfering with the 3rd Defendant’s executive functions, powers and day to day running and management of Niger Delta Development Commission the 1st Defendant herein.”
Meanwhile, the court awarded cost of one hundred thousand naira (N100,000.00) in favour of the plaintiff, payable by the 2nd Defendant forthwith.