The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has issued a final order to President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the Federal Character Commission FCC to defend or lose a suit instituted against them bordering
on the alleged lopsided appointments in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The Presiding Judge, Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo issued the order following the refusal of the three defendants to file their defense in the suit slammed on them by an Abuja based lawyer and human rights activist, Maxwell Okpara.
At Thursday’s proceedings, only the Minister of the FCT, Muhammad Bello was represented by a legal practitioner, Udom Ibeanem while Buhari, AGF and FCC were not in court and not represented by any legal practitioner despite being served with hearing notice.
At the proceedings, counsel to the plaintiff, Chukwuma Ozougwu drew the attention of the court to the persistent refusal of the three defendants to respond to the originating summons issued and served on them since December last year.
He thereafter sought the permission of the court to present the plaintiff’s case against them.
However, Justice Ekwo held a contrary position adding that the matter is such that the three defendants must file their defense.
The Judge noted the persistent refusal and neglect of the three defendants to react to issues raised against them since last year adding however that he would prefer to give them one more opportunity to come up with defense.
“If by next adjourned date the three defendants fail to come up with defense, this court would have exhausted its patience and indulgence”.
Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed October 17 for definite hearing of the suit.
Meanwhile, the FCT Minister who is the 1st defendant in the suit has filed his counter affidavit and preliminary objection against the suit praying the court to dismiss on ground of lack of locus standi by the plaintiff.
Buhari, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and the Federal Character Commission (FCC) are 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants respectfully in the suit.
The plaintiff, Maxwell Opara (an Abuja-based lawyer) is contending that President Buhari, the FCT Minister and the AGF violated the Federal Character Principle in the recent appointments of Permanent Secretaries, Executive Secretaries, personal aids, directors and other members of staff of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA).
Opara argued that the majority of the appointees are from the Northern part of the country, which contradicts the spirit of the Federal Character Principle under the Federal Character Act.
He wants the court to declare that the said appointments made on November 23, 2021 “clearly offends sections 4(1)(a)(b) and 5 of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) and provisions of Part 1, sections 1 to 9 and Part III, section 4 and 5 of the guiding principle and formulae for distribution of all cadre of posts made pursuant to section 4(1)(a) of the Federal Character Commission (Establishment, etc.) Act and accordingly the said appointments are void.”
Opara also wants the court to direct President Buhari, the FCT Minister and other defendants to comply with the provisions of Sections 4(1) (a) (b) and 5 of the Federal Character (Establishment) Act in all appointments in all cadres of posts in FCTA.
The plaintiff equally prays the court to declare that President Buhari, the FCT Minister and the AGF are under obligation to comply with the provisions of Part 1, Sections 1 to 9 and Part III, Sections 4 and 5 if the guiding principle and formulae for distribution of all cadres of posts and appointments into all cadres of posts into the Federal character administration.
The plaintiff further prayed the court to declare that the FCC is empowered by law to formulate principles and guidelines for the application of the Federal Character principle of fairness and equitable distribution if all cadres of posts in the Federal Government of Nigeria and to ensure compliance with the said formulae.
Opara, in a supporting affidavit, argued that the appointments, as done by the FCT Minister, favoured people who are mostly from the Northern part of the country.