BY FUNMI ALUKO
A Federal High Court in Lagos has fixed Monday, 5th of July 2021 for the hearing of a suit filed by outspoken maritime commentator and analysts, Elder Asu Beks, against the Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and its Executive Directors.
Elder Beks, a veteran maritime journalist, and an unapologetic ports development apostle and two other plaintiffs; Meers Tompra Abarowei and Miebi Senge had on Thursday, March 25, 2021 filed the suit challenged the powers of President Muhammadu Buhari , 1st defendant in the suit, for purportedly unlawful extension of the appointment of the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, without recourse to the statutory provisions of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Act.
Elder Beks and his co-plaintiffs also queried the reconstitution of the board of the NPA, as well as appointment of its Executive Directors, without recourse to the statutory provisions of the NPA Act.
The Chief Executive Officer of Maritime Media Limited, Publishers of Shipping World Magazine averred in his application that President Muhammadu Buhari erred for the prematurely reappointment of the now suspended NPA boss, six clear months before the expiration of her tenure; and qualification for renewal.
All parties to the case are expected to appear before Justice Tujjani Garba Ringim of the Federal High Court Ikoyi Lagos, to argue their applications and advance their positions.
Iconic constitutional lawyer and legal juggernaut, Chief Mike A.A. Ozekhome, SAN, who filled the application on behalf of Elder Beks is also expected to stand in as his lead counsel. According to the application, the plaintiffs held that the newly constituted Board of NPA has no Representative of the Ministry of Transportation as enshrined in the statute of the NPA Act, and said that the action demonstrated total disregard for due process, ethical standard, professionalism, discipline, respect, law and order.
The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi , the embattled suspended NPA boss, Hadiza Usman and the newly appointed NPA Board Chairman, Mr. Emmanuel Adesoye were also jointly joined as defendants in the suit with number FHC/L/CS/485/2021.
Elder Beks and his fellow plaintiffs is asking the court to determine the following:
- “Whether the 1st defendant in the discharge of his statutory duties has the powers under Section 2 and 10 of the NPA Act to lawfully and prematurely re-appoint the 3rd defendant to her position as the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) six clear months before the expiration of her existing tenure of office” and
- “Whether the acts of the 1st defendant in the appointment and composition of the NPA Board are not illegal, wrongful, unlawful, unconscionable, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever.
Consequently, the group is seeking the following reliefs from the court:
- A declaration that the act of the 1st defendant in purporting to re-appoint and/or extend the tenure of office of the 3rd Defendant as the Managing Director of the NPA six clear months from the expiration of her present tenure is in contravention of the provisions of Sections 2 and 10 of the NPA Act, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and thereby renders same unlawful, wrongful, illegal, null and void, and of no effect whatsoever.
- A declaration that the 1st Defendant lacks the authority, vires and power to prematurely re-appoint and extend the tenure of office of the 3rd Defendant as the Managing Director of the NPA six (6) clear months to the expiration of the said tenure.
- A declaration that the appointment of and composition of the new Board of the NPA as announced by the President on 21st January, 2021, is in blatant violation of the express provisions of Section 2 of the NPA Act, as the Act does not contemplate the composition of the Board based on geopolitical zones.
- An order setting aside the purported and premature re-appointment of the 3rd Defendant as the Managing Director of the NPA, and the consequential dissolution of the Board of the NPA headed by the 4th Defendant and as reconstituted by the 1st Defendant in January 2021.
- An order directing the 3rd Defendant and the entire Board of the NPA to vacate forthwith their respective offices and refund all salaries, allowances and benefits received by them with effect from January 21, 2021, (When the Board was appointed), to the coffers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
- An order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st Defendant, either by himself and/or acting through any of his Ministers, officers, servants, agents, and/or privies, under any guise howsoever from further breaching provisions of the NPA Act by prematurely re-appointing and extending the tenure of office of the 3rd Defendant occupant of the office of Managing Director, NPA and also members of the Board of the NPA, in gross violation of the express provisions of the NPA Act, LFN, (2004).
In the 19-point affidavit in support of the originating summons, the plaintiffs averred that the NPA Act is the enabling Act that governs the NPA and it stipulates the composition and membership of the Board and that such is not based on geopolitical zones as the present Board suggests.
They further posited that the actions of President Buhari are clearly outside and in excess of the provisions of the NPA Act.