NNPC board appointment: Why I sued FG, says Agbakoba
Olisa Agbakoba SAN
Senior lawyer and former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba has said that his decision to sue the Federal Government as a private citizen was because it has always discriminated against the South East Geo-political Zone comprising Anambra, Imo, Abia, Enugu and Ebonyi States.
He said that the recent appointments into the board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation NNPC comprising Dr. Tajuddeen Umar of the North East, Dr. Maikanti Baru also of the North East, Mr. Abba Kyari North East, Mr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse North Central, Mallam Mohammed Lawal, Mallam Yusuf Lawal,Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu South-South, Dr. Pius O. Akinyelure South-West and Dr. Thomas M.A John South-South, in which the South-East was completely excluded only marked a crescendo of such discriminations.
Recall that the Senior Advocate of Nigeria and a senior counsel of the Human Rights Law Services HURILAWS, had given the Federal Character Commission 14 days to compel the Federal Government to implement Federal Character Principle in appointment of members of the board of the NNPC or face a legal action.
In an originating summons filed at a Federal High Court Abuja division in which the Attorney General of the Federation, the NNPC and the Federal Character Commission were joined as respondents, the senior lawyer observed that this is discriminatory against the indigenes of states comprising of the South-East geopolitical zone violates section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 constitution), which prohibits any administrative or executive action of the government or application of any law in force in Nigeria which discriminates between Nigerians or accords any privilege or disability to any Nigerian, on account of ethnicity, state of origin, etc.
He also says that the discriminatory appointments into the board of the 2nd Respondent also violates the principle of democracy, social justice and Federal Character Principle prescribed by section 14(1) and (13) of the 1999 Constitution;
“I verily believe that by the appointment of 5 July 2016, the Federal Government has accorded numerical advantage to states in other geo-political zones, while excluding the South-East geopolitical zone in the board of the NNPC, which is the second respondent in the suit”, he said in the summons.
He further argued that the board has nine positions, which will ordinarily go round the six geo-political zones, but the South East has no representation at all while more than one person was appointed from other geo-political zones such as the South-South and the North-East, thereby according numerical advantage to those geo-political zones.
“The analysis above shows that the appointment discriminates between Nigerian of different states, ethnicity and geo political regions. This violates Section 42 of the Constitution which forbids administrative or executive actions of the government or application of any law in force in Nigeria which discriminate between Nigerians or accord privileges and benefits to any Nigerian, on account of ethnicity, state of origin, sex, etc. which is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other ethnicity, state of origin, sex”.
“The appointment does not reflect the Federal Character Principle of Nigeria, as prescribed by Section 14(1) and (13) of the 1999 Constitution, because the board of the 2nd Respondent constituted was dominated by people of from a few ethnic or other sectional groups while the South East is totally excluded. The appointment also violates the guiding principles and formulae for the distribution of posts, prescribed by the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act”, the summons also reads in part.
He therefore urged the court to make a declaration that the distribution of appointment into the board of the NNPC, the second respondent, by the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented in the suit by the Attorney General and first respondent, particularly the distribution/appointment made on 5 July 2016, is discriminatory against the applicant and other Nigerians indigenous to the states in the South-East geopolitical zone of Nigeria and therefore the distribution/appointment violates their fundamental right to freedom from discrimination, guaranteed by Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 Constitution).
He also sought a declaration of the court that the distribution of appointment into the board of the NNPC by the Federal Government of Nigeria particularly the distribution/appointment made on 5 July 2016, violates the principle of democracy, social justice and Federal Character prescribed by Section 14(1) and (13) of the 1999 Constitution.
Other reliefs sought include a declaration that the said distribution of appointments also violates the guiding principles and formulae for the distribution of posts, as prescribed by Part 1, Sections 1 and 4 of Guiding principles and formulae for the distribution of all cadres of posts, the subsidiary legislation pursuant to Section 4(1)(a) of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act.
An order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government of Nigeria from further violation of the constitution and other laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act in appointment of members of the Board of the NNPC as well as another order of perpetual injunction directing the three respondents to enforce compliance with the principles of democracy, social justice and all laws relating to Federal Character, including the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act in appointing members of the Board of the NNPC.
On the grounds on which these reliefs were sought, the applicant noted that he is a citizen of Nigeria from Umuasele Quarters in Onitsha Town, Onitsha-North Local Government Area of Anambra State within the South-East geopolitical zone of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He therefore argued that he brought the action in his personal capacity as a person directly affected by the unconstitutional acts of the respondents and on behalf of the entire Nigerians indigenous to the states in the South-East geopolitical zone, comprising Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia States.
“I am a tax payer, a voter and a lawyer with over 40 years of experience in legal practice. I am also involved in the advocacy for democracy, Rule of law and Constitutionalism in Nigeria. I was the President of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) at foundation in 1987; Convener, United Action for Democracy (UAD) and Senior Counsel, Human Rights Law Service (HURILAWS). I was arrested and detained under the State Security (Detention of Persons) Decree No. 2 in the cause of my campaigns and advocacy for democracy, Constitutionalism and rule of law in Nigeria”, he also said in an affidavit deposed to this effect.