Constitutional abuse: Court hears southern leaders’ N50bn suit against Buhari today

The Suit by  16 elder statesmen and leaders  of socio-cultural groups in the southern region of Nigeria and the middle Belt against President Muhammadu Buhari comes up today at a Federal High Court, Abuja.

The suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020 which was first heard on June 22, alleges “flagrant constitutional abuses” and abuse of power against the president. The plaintiffs who are leaders of  Ohanaeze, Afenifere, PANDEF  (Pan Niger Delta Forum) and Middle Belt Forum are  seeking a declaration “that the  Defendants’  collective failure to comply with the relevant provisions of the 1999 constitution particularly section 14(3)(4) and other laws are a flagrant violation of the  plaintiffs rights, guaranteed  by the 1999 constitution and other laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They are therefore praying for a perpetual injunction restraining the president from further violations of the constitution and other laws of the country. They are also seeking the award of N50b to them as exemplary and aggravated damages by the defendants.

The plaintiffs are led by Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Dr John Nnia Nwodo, Dr Pogu Bitrus, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alaowei Bozimo, Mrs Sarah Doketri, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, and Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga,.    They are also, among other things prayng to court to determine whether it was not “reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria” for president Buhari 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 Northern region. They are seeking a declaration that the loan facility  purportedly for infrastructural development wherein less than 1% of the amount is to be allocated to the South east zone of Nigeria violates section 16(1)(a) (b) and S16(2) (A) (B) (C) of the Nigerian Constitution( as amended).  It also includes a declaration  “that the 1st defendant’s procurement of any loan which would increase Nigeria’s outstanding debt by 30% of its GDP or which  would increase its  interest payment above 50% of government revenue is unconstitutional”.

Other plaintiffs in the suit include Senator Koforola Bucknor- Akerele, Prof Julie Umukoro, Elder Stephen Bangoji, Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs Rose Obioforibo, Mr Adakole Ijogi and Dr Charles Nwakeaku.

Aside from President Buhari, also listed as 2nd to 4th defendants in the matter include the Attorney General of the Federation, Clerk of National Assembly, and the Federal Character Commission. The Plaintiffs are represented by a consortium of lawyers comprising 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria led by Chief Solomon Asemota, SAN, and Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN. They are further praying the court to determine whether:” The power to appoint designated offices including permanent secretaries, principal representatives of Nigeria abroad, which is vested in the 1st defendant has been lawfully exercised by him since the inception of his administration, from 201`5 to 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 Defense Staff,(CDS) Chief of Army Staff(COAS) Chief of Naval Staff(CNS) AND Chief of Air Staff,((CAS), the other statutorily established  Nigerian Security  agencies or services namely: The Inspector General of Police, (IGP) the Directors General of the  State Security Service,(SSS) National Intelligence Agency, (NIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency, (DIA); the heads of the  National Security Associated Federal Government(FG)  establishments, namely  Nigerian Civil Defense and Security Corps, (NCDSC) Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) the Nigerian Customs and Excise 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 1st defendant, has been lawfully exercised by the 1st defendant  since the inception of his administration and whether these appointments  are in compliance with  61(2), 814(3)(4) 8217(3) of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

Some of the reliefs being sought by the leaders include the reversal of the lopsided appointments of service chiefs and the Inspector General of Police which they argued contravened the constitutional provisions on federal character and age bar retirement.

They also cited the headship of the Judiciary at all strata  being occupied by people from the north  including the Supreme Court, Appeal Court, Federal High Court, and the Code of Conduct Bureau.


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