Silent on fate of Adesoye led NPA Board
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Finally, the embattled suspended Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, currently fighting allegations of graft and insubordination has been eased of her appointment, bringing to an end about eleven weeks of intense struggle to return to office, the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMJ) has disclosed.
The clarification is coming on the heel of an affidavit deposed to by the FMJ on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, in connection with a suit challenging the premature re-appointment of the erstwhile NPA boss, and which noted that Hadiza’s appointment has been terminated by the president and therefore, neither she nor her employer can be sued on the basis of her appointment,already overtaken by her sack.
Recall that the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) had in May 2021 announced Hadiza’s suspension over alleged N60 billion graft in connection with he award of channel management contract amongst others, while she was summarily replaced her with the then Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko , in acting capacity.
The FMOT also constituted an 11-man probe committee to investigate above allegations, with the consent of President Buhari. The probe panel had as yet reported the conclusion of its assignment before the latest development, in which the presidency has affirmed her purported irrevocable sack.
The said affidavit deposed to by one Agan Tabitha, female civil servant in the Civil Litigation Department, Federal Ministry of Justice Abuja, in a suit at a Federal High Court Lagos, entered a Preliminary Objection challenging the appearance of President Muhammadu Buhari , first defendant in the case.
Note that the substantive suit filed by Elder Asu Beks, Tombra Abarowei and Miebi Senge as plaintiffs had the President, Minister of Transport, Hadiza Bala Usman and Emmanuel Adesoye, chairman, Governing Board of the NPA, as defendants.
Neither President Buhari nor the other defendants were in court or represented when the case opened before Justice Tujani Garba Ringim on July 5, 2021. Counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, represented by Barrister Ejie Onuoha lamented non appearance of the defendants in court, claiming they were duly notified.
Despite the non appearance of the defendants, Onuoha applied for hearing of the case, which was fixed for November 4, 2021.
In a Preliminary Objection filed against the substantive suit, counsel to the President, Mrs. Maimuna Lami Shiru and Mrs .C. I. Nebo, both of the civil Litigation Department of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Abuja held that the plaintiffs’ lacked the locus to institute the matter. They described the suit as an academic exercise, even as they argued that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
The six-paragraph affidavit by Agan Tabitha dated June 12 in support of the Preliminary Objection, and sighted by our reporter, Tabitha averred that she is conversant with the facts deposed in the affidavit and that she has the authority of her employer, the Federal Ministry of Justice and the consent of the first defendant, President Buhari.
She also said that the facts deposed are within her personal knowledge except as otherwise expressly stated and that she was informed by counsel to Buhari on June 6, 2021, in her office at about 2.00pm of the facts of the case, which she verily believes to be true and correct.
The affidavit states in part: “That they have perused the processes filed by the plaintiffs in this suit, that the suit as constituted is academic, suit is challenging the reappointment/renewal of the 3rd defendant’s appointment as the MD of NPA and seeks an order declaring the reappointment/renewal void and of no effect”.
“That the alleged reappointment of the 3rd defendant (Hadiza Bala Usman) upon which the court is being called upon to adjudicate has since been terminated by the first defendant and the instant suit overtaken by the event of that termination”.
The deponent cited a Daily Trust newspaper publication dated May 7, 2021, a copy of which she attached and marked as exhibit ‘A’, as evidence of the termination of Hadiza’s appointment. The statement was however silent on the fate of the reconstituted NPA Board Members led by Mr. Emmanuel Olajide Adesoye, Chiarman Board, which came into effect under the same instrument that authorized the re-appointment of Hadiza Usman.
It will be recalled that the reconstituted Adesoye led NPA Board was also sued on the ground of constitutional inconsistency in respect of the alleged failure of the Minister of Transportation to recommend them as expressly stated by NPA Act; and as contained in the suit number FHC/L/CS/485/2021.