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Lawyers differ on suit Seeking to stop ministerial nauguration

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President Muhammadu Buhari

Senior lawyers, yesterday, argued about the legality or otherwise of a suit seeking to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari from inaugurating his ministers, on the ground that an indigene of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was not nominated, with divided opinions on the matter.

The ex parte application was filed by a lawyer and an indigene of Karu in FCT, Mr. Musa Baba-Panya, who prayed the court to restrain the President from swearing in the 43 ministerial nominees slated for August 21 because of the exclusion.

An Abuja based lawyer, Mr. Elias Offor said the proviso to Section 147(3) of the Constitution made it clear that at least, one minister shall be appointed from each state.

He pointed out that although the Constitution in Section 3 doesn’t list Abuja as a state of the federation, Section 299 of the same Constitution made it a state.

The Section says: “The provision of this constitution shall apply to the FCT as if it were one of the states of the federation.

“But whether the said inauguration will prejudice the suit or the prayers made therein is what will determine the direction of the ruling on the ex parte application,” he said.

According to him, the issues before the court will be reserved for the substantive suit, and that the issue of locus standi of the applicant is not often required in constitutional cases, as suggested by several decisions of the Supreme Court on it.

Offor explained that the applicant could still wriggle out of the locus conundrum, by arguing that his civil rights and obligations are specifically affected under Section 6 (6) (b) of the Constitution that has a provision on issues of locus.

A law tutor at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof. Emeke Nelson said such an appointment is a constitutional matter.

“The question is: Is the said constitutional provision mandatory or discretionary? If it is mandatory, the President is obliged to stay proceedings, pending determination of the substantive matter, otherwise any inauguration would be a nullity in law,” he declared.

Another law lecturer, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ms. Uju Peace Okeke said: “Section 147(3) provides that the President shall appoint ministers in conformity with Section 14(3), which provides that “the composition of government of the federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner, as to reflect Nigeria’s federal character and the need to promote national unity…”

But Warri, Delta State based lawyer, Chief Albert Akpomudje (SAN) said it would be strange for a court to stop the President from swearing in his ministers after screening by the Senate.

“The balance of convenience is not in the applicant’s favour. If his case succeeds, the order will be to appoint a minister for FCT, which can be done at any time…” he suggested.

Professor of law and dean, faculty of law, Lagos State University, Funminiyi Adeleke, stressed that the courts have moved beyond
traditional restrictive and narrow concept to a liberal one, which accommodates any citizen, taxpayer and defender of the Constitution, who sees an infraction to seek redress through
acceptable legal process.

He said if the Constitution wanted another minister for FCT, outside its administrator, it would have said so, as appointing a minister from the FCT into the federal cabinet amounts to having two ministers for the FCT.


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