NDDC Board: Court dismisses Rita Lori’s suit against Buhari, Odubu, Okumagba
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday, January 19, 2023, struck out a suit instituted in 2019 against President Muhammadu Buhari, Dr. Pius Odubu, and Olorogun Bernard Okumagba, to challenge the appointment of Dr. Pius Odubu and Olorogun Bernard Okumagba as Chairman and Managing Director respectively of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in October 2019.
The suit instituted by an Abuja-based businesswoman, chief Mrs Rita Lori Ogbebor was struck out by the Court on the grounds that the plaintiff has no legal rights to have instituted the case.
The court held that section 2 of the NDDC Act 2000 was so specific that any legal action on any infraction in matters relating to NDDC can only be instituted by corporate persons 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.
Mrs Ogbebor who claimed to be a stakeholder from Itsekiri extraction had dragged President Muhammadu Buhari, 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 woman prayed the court to invoke Section 4 and 12 of the NDDC Act to order President 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 Itsekiri indigene from oil-producing areas of Delta State as the Managing Director of the NDDC.
However, the defendants in the suit promptly filed preliminary objections in 2019 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 delivered on Thursday 19th of January 2023, 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 stated that “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”.
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had forwarded to the Senate for confirmation the appointment of a board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) via a letter dated 18th October, 2019. In his letter to the Senate, the President requested the Senate to confirm Dr. Pius Odubu as Chairman and Chief Bernard Okumagba as Managing Director of the NDDC together with 14 other Board nominees.
The Senate screened the Board nominees and confirmed their appointments on November 5, 2019.