Lagos lawyer, Mr. Ebun Olu-Adegboruwa, has kicked against the nomination of Mr. Olatokunbo Ayotunde Ajasin as the Ondo State representative on the Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and described the reconstitution of the board by President Muhammadu Buhari as illegal.
In a press statement, he personally signed, Olu-Adegboruwa said it was with shock that he received the news that the President has forwarded the names of new members of the NDDC Board to the Senate for confirmation.
The lawyer said Ajasin is ineligible to be on the Board on account of not being an indigene of an oil-producing area. Olu-Adegboruwa explained that his opposition to the reconstitution of the NDDC Board is based on suit pending before the National Industrial Court (NIC), contesting the dissolution of the fourth NDDC Board. The President, he noted, is a party to the suit and is being represented by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
“First, there is a case (Suit No. NICN/ABJ/269/2015) between Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw & 9 Ors. v. Hon Attorney-General of the Federation & 4 Ors, pending before the National Industrial Court, Abuja, challenging the illegal dissolution of the 4th Governing Board of the NDDC. The President is a party to the said suit; wherein he is being represented by the Attorney-General of the Federation,” observed Olu-Adegboruwa.
Ignoring the pending suit, explained Olu-Adegboruwa, amounted to a resort to self-help by the President, who recently accused the judiciary of frustrating the anti-corruption war of his administration.
“The law is fairly well settled now that when parties have submitted their disputes before a competent court of law, they are not allowed, thereafter, to resort to self-help or take steps that may render nugatory, any decision that may be taken by the court ultimately, on the said matter,” he argued.
Despite the case before the court, he noted, the President dissolved the NDDC Board and appointed a sole administrator, contrary to the provisions of the NDDC Act. The President followed this up by approving a budget more than N300billion for the NDDC, to be administered the sole administrator, Mrs. Ibm Seminitari, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Whilst we were still contending with all these illegalities and anomalies, the President has now purported to constitute members of the 5th Governing Board of the NDDC.
“Amongst this illegal Board is Olatokunbo Ayotunde Ajasin, an indigene of Owo, in the North Senatorial District of Ondo State. By any account, Olatokunbo Ayotunde Ajasin is eminently qualified on the merit, to occupy any position that the President may deem fit for that purpose, but such appointment, in relation to the NDCC, must be in conformity with the enabling law, in this case, the Niger-Delta Establishment Act, 2000,” stated Olu-Adegboruwa.
Section 2 of the NDDC Act, noted the lawyer, states:
“(1) There is hereby established for the Commission a governing Board (in this Act referred to as (“the Board”), which shall consist of:
(a) a Chairman;
(b) one person who shall be an indigene of an oil producing area to represent each of the following member States, that is,
(i) Abia (ii) Akwa-Ibom State; (iii) Bayelsa State; (iv) Cross River State; (v) Delta State; (vi) Edo State; (vii) Imo State; (viii) Ondo State; and (ix) Rivers State;
(c) three persons to represent non-Oil mineral producing States provided that such membership should be drawn from the remaining geo-political zones which are not represented in the Commission;
(d) One representative of Oil producing companies in the Niger Delta nominated by the Oil producing companies.
(e) one person to represent the Federal Ministry of Finance;
(f) one person to represent Federal Ministry of Environment;
(g) the Managing Director of the Commission; and
(h) two Executive Directors.”
Adegboruwa contended that the law unambiguously stipulates in Section 2(1)(b) that a representative of a state constituting the NDDC Board “shall be an indigene of an oil producing area.” He defined an indigene as a native of a particular area, born in that area and with historical roots in the area, with either of the parents also originating from the place.
“By all accounts, Olatokunbo Ayotunde Ajasin is not from the oil producing area of Ondo State, being a native of Owo.
“Consequently, the President is humbly urged to withdraw the nomination of Olatokunbo Ayotunde Ajasin as a representative of the oil-producing area of Ondo State on the Board of the NDDC, failing which a suit will be filed in court to challenge the said nomination, being one that is contrary to the NDDC Act,” he said.