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FG bringing Rule of Law to ridicule

says lawyer as Itsekiri leaders petition AGF over NDDC Board, urge Umana not to inaugurate Onochie, Ogbuku*

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 Top Itsekiri leaders on Tuesday advised President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr Umana Okon Umana, to resist the urge to defy the judicial process by refraining from conducts which will render nugatory issues presented byChief Edward Ekpoko, and Engineer Victor Wood who are representing the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought and Mr. Edward Omagbemi who is representing Omadino Unity Forum to the Court.

 

‘We have done all that is required of them by submitting for judicial consideration and determination their grievances against the Executive and Legislative Arms of Government, it behooves these Arms of Government to resist the urge to defy the Judiciary and indeed the judicial process by refraining from conducts which will render nugatory issues presented by our Clients to the Court’’.

 

They also advised the Federal Government not to inaugurate Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as same will not only jeopardize the outcome of the litigation process but concomitantly operate to completely erase the confidence reposed in the Judiciary by the common man and a clog in the wheel of the administration of justice.

 

‘’We have cause to believe, as documentary evidence clearly suggests, that the Federal Government through the Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, is making frantic and brazen efforts to inaugurate Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as the substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission despite the pendency of the suit as well as several applications, and order made by the Court, with the sole aim of stealing a match, stultifying the ·court process and bringing the Rule of Law to ridicule’’.

 

In a letter to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, the leaders urged the Federal government not to proceed with the inauguration of Mrs Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as the Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

 

‘’As the Chief Law Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and a strong proponent of the Rule of Law, you will not in any way advise the President and indeed the Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, to proceed with the inauguration of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku on January 4, 2023, as the Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the NDDC and or concretize their positions, pending the outcome of the adjudicatory process already initiated by our Clients’’.

 

The letter written by Ama Etuwewe (SAN) & Co, Solicitors to the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality ably represented by Chief Edward Ekpoko, Mr. Edward Omagbemi and Engineer Victor Wood, the leaders urged the Minister of Justice to counsel the relevant parties on the need to allow the judicial process take its course and refrain from taking steps which will ridicule the Rule of Law and further weaken our nascent democratic structure.

 

‘’The attendant implications on the faith and belief of the common man are dire and would almost be dampened if the Executive and the Legislative Arms of Government continue to bond towards shattering the fabric and fibre of the judicial process upon which true democracy is enshrined; which the Judiciary seeks to mend and this certainly does not bode well for the Rule of Law if a precedent of Executive and Legislative disregard to court orders, is so easily displayed with impunity, just before the forthcoming general elections’’.

 

Titled: RE: Pending suit filed by the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality; Order of the Federal High Court Abuja, together with an application to set aside the purported screening and confirmation of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the NDDC by the Senate of the National Assembly carried out on December 21, 2022, in the face of the processes and order of court in suit NO. FHC/ABJ/CS/2294/2022, in which you are a party, the leaders urged the executive arm to comply with the judicial process.

 

‘’Having fought to ensure that there is peace and stability in the Country, it would be manifestly antithetical to the goals of this Administration of which you are a key player, if solely for a refusal to await and comply with the judicial process, all the Executive has worked for in the past seven (7) years, translates to naught’’.

 

The leaders reminded the Attorney General of the need to stay every action that will adversely affect the outcome of the adjudicatory process.

 

‘’As the Chief Law Officer of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a party in the suit, you are doubtless aware of the position of the law which is to the effect that once there is a pending litigation, all parties to the suit are expected to stay every action that will adversely affect the outcome of the adjudicatory process so as not to render the said process a nullity and foist upon the court afait accompli’’

 

The grouse of the Itsekiri leaders is that since the inception of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in 2001, the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality having over 21 oil-producing communities and producing about 58% of the crude oil in Delta State and 17% of the Country’s crude oil production, which is doubtless a major contributor to the Crude Oil and Gas Resources in Nigeria, which by virtue thereof, the Itsekiri communities suffered and continues to suffer the attendant environmental degradation, loss of livelihood as well as destruction of their farmlands and water resources, have their woes compounded by the marginalization suffered in the hands of the Federal Government of Nigeria that has repeatedly failed to consider any Itsekiri nationals competent to occupy the positions of Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the NDDC despite having previously afforded other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta States the opportunity to fill such positions.

 

Upon the dissolution of the NDDC Board in 2019 by the Federal Government of Nigeria, the NDDC, according to the leaders, has been run by various interim administrators with acting Managing Directors who hail from other oil and gas producing communities and states to the exclusion and continued marginalization of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality of Delta State of Nigeria.

 

According to them whilst the pains of marginalization of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality remained unaddressed, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on November 22, 2022, or thereabout, forwarded to the Senate of the National Assembly the names of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as Chairman and Managing Director respectively, amongst other nominees of the Niger Delta Development Commission’s new board, for confirmation.

 

This development, the leaders said, did not meet the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality well as Mrs. Lauretta Onochie whose name was forwarded by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, a Deltan no doubt, hails from Onicha-Olona Community in Aniocha North Local Government Area of Delta State, a NON­OIL AND GAS PRODUCING area of Delta State, and whereas, Chief Samuel Ogbuku whose name was forwarded as the Managing Director of the NDDC Board hails from Bayelsa State, is contrary to an established rotation arrangement in accordance with the NDDC Act. By the said rotation, it is the turn of Delta State by extension the ltsekiri Ethnic Nationality, to produce the next Managing Director of the NDDC.

 

Displeased by the unlawful actions of both the Executive and the Senate of the National Assembly to nominate, screen and confirm Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as the substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission, the Itsekiri leaders filed SUIT NO. FHC/ABJ/CS/2294/2022: CHIEF EDWARD EKPOKO & 2 ORS. v. THE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA & 5 ORS, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on December 12, 2022.

 

The Itsekiri leaders in the said suit, in which the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and your humble self are the 1st and 2nd Defendants respectively, are seeking a declaration that by virtue of Section 4 and other enabling sections of Niger Delta development Commission (Establishment, Etc.) (Amendment) Act, and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), it is the turn of Delta State to produce the next Chairman of the Niger-Delta Development Commission.

 

They are seeking declaration that by virtue of Section 12(1) and other sections of Niger Delta development Commission (Establishment, Etc.) (Amendment) Act, and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), it is the turn of Delta State to produce the next Managing Director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission.

 

A Declaration that the nomination of the 5th Defendant who hails from a non-oil producing area in Delta State as the next Chairman of the Niger-Delta Development Commission is unlawful and contrary to the intent and purpose of the Niger-Delta Development Commission Act.

 

A declaration that the nomination of the 6th Defendant as the next managing Director of the Niger-Delta Development Commission is unlawful for being contrary to the intent and purpose of the Niger Delta Development Commission Act.

 

An order quashing the nomination of the 5th and 6th Defendants as the next Chairman and Managing Director respectively to the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, by the 1st Defendant, as the said nomination is contrary to the spirit and intendment of the Niger Delta Development Commission Act 2000 as amended.

 

AN ORDER restraining the 3rd and 4th Defendants from screening and confirming the 5th and 6th Defendants for the positions of the next Chairman and Managing Directors respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission as their nomination by the 1st Defendant is contrary to the spirit and intendment of the Niger­ Delta Development Commission Act.

 

A declaration that by virtue of the provisions of the Niger-Delta Development Commission Act, 2000 as amended, the Plaintiffs as suitable members of the ltsekiri nationality of Delta State are qualified to be nominated as the next Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger-Delta Development Commission. Any further order(s) as this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

 

The Itsekiri leaders on December 12, 2022, filed an ex-parte application seeking the following reliefs from the Federal High Court, Abuja, to wit;

 

An order of interim injunction restraining the 3rd and 4th Defendants from screening and confirming or taking any further steps to screen or confirm the nomination of the 5th and 6th Defendants as the next and substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), ,Pending the expiration of the statutory (three) Months Pre-action Notice already issued on the 3rd and 4th Defendants and or the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed.

 

AN ORDER directing that the STATUS QUO ANTE BELLUM be maintained by the 3rd and 4th Defendants, their servants, agents, privies, employees and committees concerning the screening and confirmation of the 5th and 6th Defendants as the next and substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) pending the expiration of the statutory (three) Months Pre-action Notice already issued by the Applicants on the 3rd and 4th Defendants on November 30, 2022 and or the hearing and determination of the motion on notice already filed.

 

An order granting leave to the Plaintiffs to serve the 5th and 6th Defendants with the originating processes in this suit by substituted means by advertising the processes in at least one National Newspaper circulating within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court and to deem same as proper service.

 

Any order or further order as this Honourable Court may deem fit to grant in the circumstances.

 

As is customary, the Itsekiri leaders accompanied the ex-parte application with a motion on notice filed on December 12, 2022, seeking the following reliefs to wit;

 

An order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 3rd and 4th Defendants from screening and confirming or taking any further steps to screen or confirm the nomination of the 5th and 6th Defendants as the next and substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit AND/OR AN ORDER directing that the STATUS QUO ANTE BELLUM be maintained by the 3rd and 4th Defendants, their servants, agents, privies, employees and committees concerning the screening and confirmation of the 5th and 6th Defendants as the next and substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit. Any order or further order as this Honourable Court may deem fit to grant in the circumstances.

 

The Federal High Court on December 15, 2022, in refusing reliefs 1 and 2 of the Itsekiri leaders’ ex-parte application filed on December 12, 2022, ordered the parties in the suit not to take any step that will render nugatory our Clients’ pending application for interlocutory injunction filed on December 12, 2022.

 

The Court also emphatically ordered that any act or step or action taken in order to render nugatory, the outcome of our Clients’ motion for interlocutory injunction filed on December 12, 2022, and scheduled for hearing on January 11, 2023, shall be a nullity. A copy of the said Order has been duly served on all the parties including your office.

 

Despite the fact that all the Defendants were served with the originating process, the Itsekiri leaders application for interlocutory injunction and the order of the Court restraining all parties from acting otherwise, the leadership of the Senate of the National Assembly proceeded to screen and confirm Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as the substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively, of the Niger Delta Development Commission, on December 20, 2022.

 

Further displeased by the brazen act of the National Assembly in proceeding defiantly to screen and confirm Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as the substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission in gross and total disregard to the order of Court restraining all parties from taking any step capable of rendering nugatory, the Itsekiri leaders’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction,, the Itsekiri leaders on December 22, 2022, filed an application at the Federal High Court seeking inter alia the following relief;

 

AN ORDER setting aside the purported screening and confirmation of the 5th and 6th Defendants on December 20, 2022, by the 3rd and 4th Defendants during the pendency of the order of this Honourable Court delivered on December 15, 2022, restraining the parties from taking any step that may render nugatory the outcome of the Applicants’ pending application for interlocutory injunction.

 

 

Whilst the suit and in fact their most recent application to set aside the screening and confirmation of Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the NDDC by the Senate of the National assembly has not been determined, the Itsekiri leaders are aware and already in the public domain, that the Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs is making plans and has circulated letters to that effect, to inaugurate Mrs. Lauretta Onochie and Chief Samuel Ogbuku on January 4, 2023, at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja, as ·the substantive Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the NDDC. The Minister has hinged his brazen disregard of the order of the court and the due process of law, on the purported approval of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is the 1st Defendant in the suit under reference.

 

Furtherance to the reliefs being claimed by the Itsekiri leaders in the suit, there is a pending application filed by the Itsekiri leaders seeking an injunction against the Defendants for an order of Court restraining the Defendants from taking steps capable of rendering nugatory the pending application for interlocutory injunction and an application seeking to set aside the confirmation made by the Senate of the National Assembly, which step more to undermining the Judiciary’s role and the Rule of Law, has pre­ determined the issues presented by our Clients for judicial determination in the substantive suit.

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