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Court strikes out suit against Buhari on NDDC appointments

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
20 January 2023   |   5:17 am
• Plaintiff vows to pursue case to S’Court Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, struck out a suit instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari to challenge alleged lopsided appointments into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). The suit, instituted by an Abuja-based businesswoman and NDDC stakeholder, Chief Mrs Rita Lori-Ogbebor, was…

• Plaintiff vows to pursue case to S’Court

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, struck out a suit instituted against President Muhammadu Buhari to challenge alleged lopsided appointments into the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The suit, instituted by an Abuja-based businesswoman and NDDC stakeholder, Chief Mrs Rita Lori-Ogbebor, was struck out on the grounds that the plaintiff had no legal rights to have instituted the case.

The court held that Section 2 of the NDDC Act 2000 was so specific that only corporate persons can institute legal action on any infraction in matters relating to NDDC and not individuals like the plaintiff.

The judge held that the law was clear that the power to file any case to challenge infractions in the NDDC cannot be delegated by proxy to anybody.

Lori-Ogbebor, who claimed to be a stakeholder from Itsekiri, had dragged the President, NDDC, Senate, Dr. Pius Odubu, Olorogun Bernard Okumagba and the Attorney General of the Federation before the court in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1069/2019.

The activist prayed the court to invoke Sections 4 and 12 of the NDDC Act to order Buhari to appoint indigenes of oil-producing areas of Delta State as chairman, in specific compliance with Section 4.

The plaintiff also prayed for another order compelling Buhari to appoint an Itsekiri indigene from oil-producing areas of Delta State as the managing director of NDDC.

She further asked the court to make a declaration that Buhari is under legal obligation to comply with all laws relating to appointments in the NDDC.

However, defendants in the suit filed preliminary objections and challenged the legal right of the plaintiff to have instituted the action.

The defendants averred that Section 2 of the NDDC Act is so specific that only corporate persons can institute action where infractions occur.

In his judgment, Justice Ekwo upheld the preliminary objections of the defendants and held that the plaintiff lacked legal right to have brought the case before the court.

Justice Ekwo held that if those empowered by law to challenge infractions in the NDDC appointments, refuse or neglect to act, then they do not consider it material infraction or infraction at all.

“The consequence of lack of locus standi is dire and the courts have been unwavering in making pronouncements on it. It is the law that the claim must be struck out when a plaintiff is found to be lacking locus standi. I am bound to follow the law, and I hereby make an order striking out the case of the plaintiff.”

Reacting to the judgment, the plaintiff bemoaned the plight of the people of Itsekiri extraction and vowed that the case would be pursued up to the Supreme Court.

She added that she would stand by legal action only and would not encourage violence because she would not support anything violent.

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