Court Joins National Assembly in Southern, Middle Belt Leader's Suit against Buhari

*Fixes hearing for January 28

By Alex Enumah

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday joined the National Assembly as a defendant in the suit filed by the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum against the alleged lopsided appointments by the President led administration.

Justice Abang joined the National Assembly as the fifth defendant, while ruling in an application to that effect brought by the plaintiffs through their lawyer, Mrs Nella Andem-Rabana, SAN, on Wednesday.

In the joinder application earlier filed on October 2, 2020, the plaintiff had said the National Assembly was a necesary party to the suit because its “rights and responsibilities are affected by the questions raised for determination” by the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs who claimed to have filed the suit “in the interest of justice” maintained that the National Assembly “will be affected by the eventual decision of the court”, hence the need to include them in the suit.

When the application was taken, 1st to fourth respondents; the President, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Clerk of the National Assembly, and the Federal Character Commission respectively did not oppose.

In his ruling, Abang held that, “the National Assembly of Federal Republic is hereby joined as the 5th defendant in this matter”.

The judge also ordered the plaintiffs to ensure the service of the suit and other processes on the new defendant.

In a separate ruling, the judge also granted the President and the AGF, the 1st and 2nd defendants, who were represented by Mr Oyin Koleosho, an extension of time within which to file their responses to the suit.

The request for the application for extension of time was not opposed by the plaintiffs’ counsel and the other defence lawyers – Mr Mohammed Iliasu representing the Clerk of the National Assembly (the 3rd defendant), and Mr Garuba Zulfik for the Federal Character Commission (the 4th defendant).

The judge subsequently adjourned the matter till January 28 for hearing.

The 16 plaintiffs, in the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020, and filed before the court on June 8, 2020, include, Ijaw leader, Chief Edwin Clark, the Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, President General of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Dr John Nwodo, and a leader of the Middle Belt people, Dr. Pogu Bitrus.

Others are; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Alaowei Bozimo, Mrs Sarah Doketri, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Air Commodore Idongsit Nkanga, a former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Prof Julie Umukoro, and Elder Stephen Bangoji.

The rest are Alhaji Tijani Babatunde, Mrs Rose Obuoforibo, Mr Adakole Ijogi, and Dr. Charles Nwakeaku.

Some of the plaintiffs, including Adebanjo, Nwodo, and Bucknor-Akerele, were present in court on Wednesday.

Also, the spokesperson for the Afenifere Renewal Group, Yinka Odunmakin, was present at the proceedings.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer argued that “under the current first defendant’s (Buhari’s) administration which has been in power since May 29, 2015, several sensitive government positions and agencies are dominated by persons of the same ethnic and religious group, state and geographical zones”.

They contended that the appointments to the positions of the country’s service chiefs were skewed in favour of northern Nigeria.

Plaintiffs further claimed that the president’s appointment “are a clear violation of the federal character principle” in other statutorily established Nigerian national Security agencies or services.

They therefore prayed the court to order Buhari to reverse “the lopsided appointments complained about” and another order for the award of N50bn as compensation for their constituents.

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