BY IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA – A Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, sacked the representative of Abia State in the 19-man governing board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr Jacob Ogbonna Anuruegbe, declaring his appointment in 2009 illegal and unconstitutional.
The High Court maintained that the Federal Government, under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, by-passed due process in okaying his nomination for a 4-year single tenure into the board shortly after his predecessor was arbitrarily ousted from office in contravention to Section 3 (1) of the NDDC Act.
Consequently, presiding Justice Donatus Okorowo, in a judgment he delivered yesterday, ordered an immediate re-instatement of one Aloysius C. Nwagboso, who he said was illegally removed from office before the expiration of his tenure on the NDDC board.
Nwagboso had gone before the high court, contending that his removal from office barely a year after he was appointed in 2007, was null and void, in view of the fact that the letter of appointment issued to him by the Federal Government specifically stipulated that his tenure would expire sometime in May 2011.
He told the court that whereas he was appointed into the NDDC board on May 24, 2007, via a letter signed by the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Ufot Ekaette, sequel to a vacancy that had existed in the slot reserved for Abia State, but that he was subsequently removed from office in April 2009 by the SGF, Mr Yayale Ahmed.
Dissatisfied with the manner of his removal from office, the plaintiff, Nwagboso, dragged the Federal Government, National Assembly, Attorney General of the Federation, NDDC, Abia State government to court.
He equally joined his purported replacement on the board, Mr Anuruegbe, as the 6th Defendant in the suit.
He urged the court to, among other things, determine whether his membership on the board of the NDDC could lawfully cease or be validly terminated or curtailed or truncated during the pendency of his tenure for a fixed statutory period of four years commencing from May 24, 2007 to May 23, 2011 without due recourse to section 5 of the NDDC Act and section 157 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended.
Besides, he sought 9-separate reliefs from the court among which are, “a declaration that the term of office of the plaintiff as a member of the governing board of the NDDC representing Abia State, Nigeria, which commenced from 24 May, 2007 remains subsisting until 23 May 2011.
“A declaration that the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Defendants have power under the NDDC Act and or the 1999 constitution, to remove and replace the plaintiff as a member of the governing board of the NDDC representing Abia State, other than in accordance with due process of law.
“An order nullifying and setting aside the purported and wrongful recommendation, nomination, screening, confirmation, appointment and subsequent actions of the 6th Defendant as the purported member of the governing board of the NDDC, representing Abia state.
“An order restoring all the rights, privileges, entitlements, emoluments, perquisites of office and or benefits, howsoever, of the plaintiff as a member of the governing board of the NDDC representing Abia State.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 6th Defendant fro parading and or holding himself out or doing any act in any manner whatsoever or howsoever as the member of the NDDC governing board representing Abia state”.
Delivering judgment on the suit yesterday, Presiding Justice Donatus Okorowo, granted all the reliefs sought by the plaintiff, even as he ordered that he should be reinstated back to office forthwith.