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Southern leaders initiate N50b suit against Buhari over alleged marginalisation

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Court fixes July 10 hearing date, orders service on defendants

Elder statesmen and leaders of socio-cultural platforms in the southern region of Nigeria yesterday initiated an N50 billion suit against President Muhammadu Buhari over alleged lopsided appointments. Other defendants are the Attorney-General of the Federation, Clerk of the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission.

In the case filed on their behalf by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the group, led by 16 elders, claimed that since the inception of his administration in 2015, Buhari’s appointments had contravened the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the federal character principle.

The senior citizens listed in the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020 include Chief Edwin Clark, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Dr. John Nnia Nwodo, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, Mrs. Sarah Doketri, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, and Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (rtd).

Others are Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof. Julie Umukoro, Elder Stephen Bangoji, Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs. Rose Obuoforibo, Mr. Adakole Ijogi, and Dr. Charles Nwakeaku.

The plaintiffs further alleged that the southern region had been “deliberately marginalised by the President Buhari government.”

They are, consequently, praying the court to, among other things, determine whether it was not “reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria, for President Buhari to obtain a loan facility from the Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank, the World Bank, China, Japan, and Germany, amounting to $22.7 billion, for infrastructural development, only to allocate the bulk of the fund to the northern region.”

They are also seeking a declaration that the “loan facility purportedly for infrastructural development, wherein less than one per cent of the amount is to be allocated to the South-East zone of Nigeria for specific infrastructural development, violates Section 16 (1) (a) (b) and S16 (2) (a) (b) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

Meanwhile, the presiding judge, Justice Okon Abang, has fixed July 10 for hearing of the case.

The judge also directed Ozekhome, who represented the plaintiffs in court yesterday, to serve the court processes on all the defendants.

The claimants, in the suit filed through a consortium of lawyers, comprising 10 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), headed by Chief Solomon Asemota and Ozekhome, are specifically praying the court to determine, “whether the power to appoint designated public officers, including permanent secretaries, principal representatives of Nigeria abroad, which is vested in the first defendant, has been lawfully exercised by him since the inception of his administration from 2015 till date, and whether his actions are in breach of Sections 171(5), 814(3) (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended),” among others.

They also want the court to determine whether all the “appointments are in compliance with Sections 81(2), 814(3)(4), 821 (7) (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

The leaders, therefore, urged the court to award N50 billion against the defendants to “represent punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages” to their constituents “for the illegal, wrongful discriminatory and unconstitutional acts committed by the first defendant” against the people of the plaintiffs’ states and geopolitical zones.


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