Nigeria

NDDC: Court dismisses suit against Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerian government

The Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) has been taken to court by civil society organisations for violating the Freedom of Information Act by withholding information on its 2020 budget.

Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor, a rights advocate, had filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General Abubakar Malami SAN, and Senate President Ahmad Lawal over the reconstitution of the NDDC board, but Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja threw out the case.

Godswill Akpabio, the then Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, and the Clerk of the National Assembly are also defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in August of 2021, and the plaintiff was demanding that President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the President of the Senate refrain from naming a new board of directors for the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) until the results of the agency’s forensic audit are made public.

On Thursday, however, the judge ruled that Chief Lori-Ogbebor lacked the legal standing (locus standi) to bring the suit.

Shortly after the judgement, Chief Lori-Ogbebor told Judiciary Correspondents that she would appeal the decision.

The plaintiff claimed she would be marginalised if the court told her she couldn’t protect the Itshekiri people.

In addition to demanding disclosure of the forensic audit report, the plaintiff asks the court to prevent the defendants from appointing a new board.

Chief Ogbebor wants President Buhari to wait until the requested forensic audit is complete. He receives the report from Akpabio before he forms or reconstitutes the board for NDDC or appoints anybody or person to the board.

“An order of this court restraining the President from acting on any advice concerning constituting the NDDC board without receiving a copy of the audited forensic report and immediately issuing a White Paper on same.

“An order restraining the Senate President from receiving a nomination from President Buhari with a view to screening and confirming the appointment of any person or persons as board members of the NDDC pending the completion and presentation of the audit (report) ordered by him (Buhari).

“An order restraining Akpabio, by himself or anybody, whosoever acts through him, from interfering with the conduct of the forensic audit in a manner inconsistent with the order of the President.”

The plaintiff also wants the court to rule on whether President Buhari has the authority to issue a directive ordering a forensic audit of the NDDC’s activities from 2001 to 2019 under the NDDC Act of 2017 and whether the President is required to receive the report of the forensic audit and act on same before taking any further steps in constituting or recreating the board for the NDDC.

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