OIDA and legal tussle over FCT ministerial slot

IBRAHIM RAMALAN writes on the decision of Abuja indigenes to take the Federal Government to court over the latter’s refusal to give them a slot in the recently constituted Federal Executive Council

Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA) has found itself in a legal tussle with the federal government in the suit filed against the Federal Government over the refusal to grant them a ministerial slot in the Federal Executive Council (FEC) among other federal appointments.
Following the suit, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed January 20, 2016 for ruling on. After hearing the substance of the suit from the plaintiff and defendant, Justice A. R. Mohammed of Court No.7 of the Federal High Court, Abuja reserved judgment for January 20, 2016.
Barrister Musa Baba-Panya, who filed the case on behalf of the Original Inhabitants Development Association of Abuja (OIDA), described the development as reassuring and says he is hopeful that justice would be dispensed rightly in favour of Abuja natives who have suffered psychological and physical trauma over the injustice meted out to them as if they are foreigners and not Nigerians by birth.
“We are not a conquered people, we deserve to be treated equally like all Nigerians who are entitled to a ministerial slot in the Federal Executive Council (FEC). We are hopeful that the judiciary as the last hope of the common man will make a pronouncement that will arrest this ongoing injustice by several administrations despite the sacrifice of our people to host the capital city of Nigeria.”
It would be recalled that in February this year, then President Goodluck Jonathan had forwarded a list of 7 ministerial nominees to the Senate for confirmation. And for the umpteenth time, as obtained throughout the sixteen years of Peoples Democratic Party-led governance, no nominee FCT indigenous person was included. This prompted OIDA, its General Counsel, Messrs Musa Baba-Panya and president of the association, Pastor Danladi Jeji, to file a suit challenging the Federal Government.
In the originating summons filed by the plaintiffs, three issues were submitted for the determination of the court. The issues are: one, whether by the combined provisions of Sections; 147(1)(3); 14(3), and 299 of the 1999 Constitution the natives of FCT, Abuja are entitled to ministerial appointment into the Federal Executive Council.
Two, whether the continuous refusal failure and default by previous and current Presidents to so appoint a native of FCT, Abuja as minister of the federation is tantamount to a flagrant violation of the 1999 Constitution. And three, whether the continuous refusal, failure and default by previous and current Presidents to so appoint a native of FCT, Abuja is tantamount to acts of discrimination and same is a breach of the fundamental rights of the original inhabitants of FCT, Abuja.
The plaintiffs want a declaration by the court that Abuja natives are entitled to a ministerial appointment into the Federal Executive Council and that the non-appointment over the years is a flagrant violation of their constitutional and human rights.
The plaintiffs equally claimed compensatory, exemplary damages and legal costs totalling the sum of N1.310 Billion naira. They are also asking for a public apology (in both print and broadcast media) for all the years of deprivation and denials of their constitutional rights, entitlements and privileges as bonafide Nigerian citizens.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government represented by a counsel in the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Chiosonu Okpoku, filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The application is premised on three grounds, one of which is that the plaintiffs lack the locus standi to institute the court case. The AGF also challenged the processes used in filing the suit by saying it was wrong and an abuse of court process while equally describing the suit as a mere academic exercise.
OIDA noted that there have been growing agitations and debates on whether or not FCT, Abuja is in law and fact the 37th state of the federation based on Section 299 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which was brought to the fore of the Senate during the recent ministerial screening by the Senator representing FCT, Senator Philip Aduda.
The apex body of Abuja natives says a declaratory judgment will put to rest the debates and simmering agitations among original inhabitants and Nigerians resident in FCT.
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