Six leaders of the Niger Delta region have dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to court over the tenure of the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) led by Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba as chairman and Nsima Ekere as managing director/chief executive officer.
The leaders, Micah Akeems (Bayelsa); Ziprebo Emomotimi (Bayelsa); George Ufot Udoyara (Akwa Ibom); Elliot Tibakeni (Bayelsa); Unyeowaji Patterson Gabriel (Rivers); Patrick Stephen (Abia); and Alphonsus James (Bayelsa), in a suit numbered FHC/ABJ/C5/1245/2017 filed before the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, sought a clear interpretation of the NDDC Act as it relates to tenure and rotation.
In the suit, filed on December 15, 2017 and originating summons dated 16th of April, 2018, the plaintiffs sought the determination of “Whether the Niger Delta Development Commission Act, 2000 is binding on all the defendants? Whether the defendants can in line with the NDDC Act, 2000 appoint/reappoint the Managing Director (of the Commission) whose letter of appointment is only for a one year term which will terminate in December 2017 or elongate the tenure outside the provision of Section 3 of the NDDC Act, 2000.”
The plaintiffs specifically sought the following reliefs among others from the court: “An order of court to halt any attempt to retain the managing director and other members of the commission;
“An order of court compelling the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to appoint the Managing Director of the NDDC from Bayelsa State in accordance with Section 12 (1) of the NDDC Act, 2000, which supports the principle of rotation of key offices of the commission.”
The plaintiffs said, “It will be a mockery of the NDDC Act, 2000 to disregard the said Act and not to follow the rotational principle as envisaged and contemplated in the intent and spirit of the said Act.”
In an affidavit in support of the originating summons, Micah Akeems, the first applicant, stated that since the establishment of the NDDC, the appointment/reappointment of managing directors had been on the principle of rotation. He added that the tenure of the immediate outgoing or outgone managing director of the NDDC ended in December 2017 in accordance with his letter of appointment.
The suit, which came up for hearing on Monday, April 16, 2018, before Justice Anwuli Chikere had the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs represented in court.
The President and NDDC were, however, not represented.
The court adjourned the matter to May 21 following an observation that NDDC was not properly served.
The summons, was reportedly sent to the NDDC office in Abuja rather than the headquarters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
It would be recalled that the issue of tenure elongation of the current NDDC Board has already become subject of protests by individuals and groups, including prominent traditional rulers from the Niger Delta. The protesters have called on the President to adhere to the law and practice regarding the NDDC since its inception and reconstitute the board of the commission.