The Chairperson of the NDDC, Mrs Lauretta Onochie, has been restrained from interfering with the functions of the Office of the Managing Director (MD) Dr. Samuel Ogbuku, as outlined in the NDDC Act.
This follows a suit filed in the Federal High Court sitting in Warri, Delta State, by a certain Dr Mike Oberabor(the plaintiff) for himself and on behalf of the Oberabor Oreme-Egbede families of Olomoro community of Isoko South Local Government, Delta State.
The defendants in the suit are the NDDC(first), the Board Chairperson(second) and the Managing Director Dr Samuel Ogbuku(third). The plaintiff approached the court for an interpretation of the NDDC Act 2000 and other relevant documents related thereto.
While the NDDC and the MD were represented by different counsel, the chairman was not represented throughout the hearing, even though she was served with all the originating processes, including the date for the sitting. She did not also give any excuse for not being represented.
In arriving at the judgement, the trial judge, Mr Justice Okon Abang said the court, having “considered the provisions of the NDDC Establishment etc Act 2000 and having again considered the circular issued by the office of the accountant-general of the federation dated 16/1/2023 on the subject matter of dispute between parties…
“The court having considered the relevant provisions of the NDDC Act to the effect that the second defendant as the chairman of the board of the first defendant on part time basis is to oversee and preside over meetings of the board…
“The court having also considered the relevant provisions of the NDDC Act to the effect that the third defendant being the managing director of the first defendant, the chief executive officer and accounting officer of the first defendant is saddled with the responsibility of the day to day running and management of the first defendant…
“The court having also considered that the unilateral decision of the second defendant to appoint 18 aides in her office, the demand for an executive office in the commission are in contravention(of) relevant provisions of NDDC Act, the circulars released by the federal government on the subject matter of the plaintiff’s claims…
“The court, having delivered its judgment in an open court, its reasoning and conclusions are as contained in the body of judgement and it is deserving to grant the plaintiff’s claims…
“It is hereby adjudged and ordered and declared as follows: that the third defendant as managing director of the NDDC is the person statutorily empowered by the NDDC Act to perform and wield executive functions, powers and day to day running and management of the commission to the exclusion of other members of the board of the NDDC, including the second defendant(the chairman).
“That all actions of the second defendant, including but not limited to the appointment of her personal aides carried out in exercise of executive functions and powers in the NDDC since her assumption of duty on January 4, 2023are ultra vires her powers and therefore null and void and of no consequences whatsoever.
“That the second defendant is restrained from carrying out/and or exercising any executive functions in the NDDC. That the second defendant is further restrained from interfering with the third defendant’s(MD’s) executive functions, powers, day to day running and management of the NDDC.”
The court also awarded a cost of N100,000 against the board chairman, payable to the plaintiff. The judgement was dated May 9, 2023, but the certified true copy of same was obtained by TNN on Sunday.
According to a report obtained by TNN, the face-off between the chairman and the MD started a few days after the new board was inaugurated, with the chairman seeking to become a signatory to the commission’s accounts, a desire that did not go down well with the management team, as it was a strange request.
While that was being dealt with, the chairman was said to have questioned the powers of the MD to appoint his personal aides, saying that he ought to have obtained clearance from her office before making the appointments. But she appointed 18 staff for herself.
The last straw was felt penultimate week, when she issued a statement nullifying the MoU which the MD signed with a US firm for the construction of a rail line in the Niger Delta that will connect the nine states in the region.
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