Paschal Emeka, Abuja
An Abuja-based lawyer, Oladimeji Felix Ekengba, has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and Minister of Niger Delta Affairs before a Federal High Court in Abuja, challenging their alleged unlawful interference in the operations of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr/ Umana Umana, was alleged to have unlawfully assumed the position of the Managing Director (MD) of the NDDC in the running of the day to day affairs of the commission contrary to the positions of the law.
In the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1458/2022, plaintiff, who is an indigene of Imo State, is praying for an order of the Court restraining the defendants 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 NDDC’s operations since he has no power under any law to do so.
The plaintiff in the suit filed by himself is seeking 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 Niger Delta Minister, the Ministry and the Permanent Secretary in the affairs of the commission are contrary and in breach of Section 4 of the 1999 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.
The suit instituted on August 19, 2022, by the plaintiff also sought an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, the Ministry, and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry from interfering, usurping, controlling, or issuing directives to the management and workers and intervening in the affairs of the commission.
In a 16-paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiff, who claimed to be an environmental rights activist and a legal practitioner as well as an indigene, asserted that he is 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 tenets of the 1999 Constitution, is under obligation 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 affairs is 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 Minister, Ministry, and Permanent Secretary inaugurated a committee on the compressive staff audit of the NDDC filed a letter on 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 Minister, Ministry and the Permanent Secretary are seeking to carry out is unconstitutional, the plaintiff seeks an order of the Court to restrain them from interfering, usurping, controlling or issuing directives to the management and workers of the NDDC since doing so run contrary to section 4 of the 1999 Constitution.
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for a hearing in the suit. Speaking with journalists, the plaintiff denied being sponsored to institute the case by anybody or group adding that as an indigene of Imo State and a legal practitioner, he owes it a duty to ensure that the Constitution is not breached by anybody.