The controversy surrounding the recent appointments of top management staff of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its board has shifted to the courts with Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), challenging the federal government for discriminating against the South-East geopolitical zone in its appointment into the board of the state oil company.
In a suit filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, Agbakoba, a former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said the Federal Government, on July 5, 2016, appointed nine persons into the NNPC Board but none of them was from the South-East.
He said this was a demonstration of the Federal Government’s bias against the five south-eastern states – Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia.
Those appointed, he noted, were Dr. Tajuddeen Umar from the North-East; Dr. Maikanti Baru (North-East), Mr. Abba Kyari (Nort- East), Mr. Mahmoud Isa-Dutse (North Central), Mallam Mohammed Lawal, Mallam Yusuf Lawal, Dr. Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu (South-South), Dr. Thomas M.A John (South-South) and Dr. Pius O. Akinyelure (South-West).
The Anambra State born legal luminary, human rights activist and maritime lawyer is seeking a court declaration that the Federal Government violated the constitutional rights of the five south-eastern states to freedom from discrimination as enshrined in Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution.
The appointment, Agbakoba argued, also violates Section 4(1)(a) of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act.
The respondents in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation, NNPC and the Federal Character Commission.
Agbakoba wants the court to declare that “the 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.”
He also wants the court to make an order of perpetual injunction “restraining the Federal Government of Nigeria as represented by the first respondent from further violation of the Constitution and other laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, including the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act in the appointment of members of the Board of the second respondent.”
“I want the honourable court to, in the interest of justice, enforce the fundamental right of freedom from discrimination of the entire Nigerians indigenous to the states in the South-East geopolitical zone, comprising of Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia states, to afford every Nigerian equal opportunity, based on merit, in appointments to the board of the second respondent.”
PIX: Olisa Agbakoba (SAN)