An anti-corruption crusader, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo has filed a suit before the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia State, challenging the constitutionality of the appointment of Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) as the Controller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In suit no: FHC/UM/CS/216/15, Okonkwo is seeking for the interpretation of Sec. 5(1), 147(1), 148, 151 and 171(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended, the Custom and Excise Management Act, Cap. 45 Vol. 4LFN 2004 and all other enabling laws thereto and African Charter on Human and Peoples Right (ratification and enforcement) Act – Article 22(2), LFN 2004.
Mr. Okonkwo asked the court to declare that the appointment of Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) as Controller-General of the Nigeria Customs Services by the President violated 5(1), 147(1), 148, 151 and 171(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended and the purported appointment is ‘ultra vires’ of the president’s executive powers and duties and thereby a flagrant breach of his Oath of Office.
Among other reliefs, the plaintiff is seeking “a declaration that as at 27th of August 2015, when the President purportedly appointed the Col. Ali (rtd) Controller-General of the NCS; the President Buhari breached the statutory mandatory provision in section 147(1) of the 1999 constitution; having not appointed Minister of Finance, the 2nd defendant.
“A declaration that the appointment of the Col. Ali (rtd) as the Controller-General of the NCS is not supported by any iota of law, and a clear violation of the Public Service Rules application to the NCS. A declaration that there is no enabling law made by the national Assembly as the authority for the appointment of Col. Ali (rtd) as the new Controller-General, NCS, his appointment by President Buhari is unconstitutional, null and void”.
Okonkwo told the court that the purported press release by Mr. Femi Adesina, an aid of President Buhari is without due regard to Civil Service Rules, but public relations affairs and that Adesina is an imposter and not the Minister of Finance.
He stressed that an appointment to the office of CG of NCS shall not be made except with the recommendation of the Minister of Finance, and among Deputy Controller-Generals, Assistant Controller-Generals and or Controllers, in the Nigerian Customs Service of the federation.
He asked the court to declare that the appointment of Ali as the CG of the NCS “is an appointment to the public service in the federal civil service of the federation, noting that the appointment wasn’t in response to advertised vacancies.
“Therefore, the said appointment is of no legal consequence and as a retired Colonel in the Nigerian Army with above 60yrs of age, a pensioner, he is not eligible for appointment into the federal civil service regarding the Nigeria Customs Service.”
Okonkwo urged the court to declare that the appointment of Ali as the CG of the NCS, is not consistent with the provisions of the 1999 constitution as amended, in so far as the Nigeria Customs Service conditions of service and any other law applicable to its officers and other ranks are concerned, therefore null and void ‘abi initio’.
“An order directing the Minister of Finance and Nigerian Customs defendants from recognizing the appointment of the Ali as the Head-Controller-General of the Nigerian Custom Service, and a further order setting aside all acts done by Col. Ali (rtd) purportedly in the capacity as the CG of the NCS.
“An order of perpetual injunction restraining Col. Ali (rtd) from holding himself out to the entire public including the 1st,2nd, and 3rd defendants from putting into effect the purported appointment of Ali 4th defendant as CG, NCS”.
In a statement of claim, Okonkwo who is also the promoter of Movement of Voice for Democracy (MOVERS NIGERIA) told the court that the purported illegal appointment of Col. Ali to the office of the Controller-General affects his business interest and is tantamount to a treat to his civil right and obligation by forcing him to deal with Ali an illegal occupant of the highest office of the Nigeria Customs Service.
He added that, “That as a political leader with many relations and friends who are involved in various manufacturing business, the brewery industry, general importation of goods, within the south-east zone and in Lagos south-west zone, and by virtue of these businesses his relatives have constant financial dealings with the defendants, particularly the 3rd defendant NCS and have interest in the appointment of the 4th defendants Col. Ali (rtd) as the head of the NCS.”
As Nigeria citizen, a tax payer and an anti-corruption activist, Okonkwo said the complaint against the defendants for breaching the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, in the purported appointment of the Col. Ali (rtd) as CG of the NCS is a duty imposed on him by the constitution of Nigeria to expose corruption, impunity and act ultra vires of the powers of the public officers including the President of the federal republic of Nigeria.
He said as importer of goods into Nigeria, he had suffered injury above any other Nigerian, from the President’s breach of the constitution, and Oath of Office by appointing Col. Ali (rtd) the CG of the NCS which act affects his business interest with the NCS.
Okonkwo stated that the 1st defendant as the Chief law officer of the Federation, who’s powers and duties are recognized under Sec. 174 of the 1999 constitution as amended and represents the President of the federal republic of Nigeria, he exercises all the powers both as the Attorney-General of the federation of Nigeria and as a Minister in the Executive arm of the government of Nigeria with the full responsibility of ensuring that provisions of the 1999 constitution and Articles of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap. 49 A9 LFN 2004, are observed, secured and guaranteed to every citizen of Nigeria inclusive of the plaintiff.
“NCS absorbed the functions of the Federal Public Service Commission, with regards to appointment, promotion and disciplinary control over staff of the service, and that by the operation of public service rules the 4th defendant (Ali) cannot be appointed into the service of the NCS without due compliance of the said rules and for not being a public officer.
“That appointment of Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) an army officer called out from retirement after collecting his gratuity and pension, clearly rubbishes Customs Officers career progression and it is illegal. That as at 27th of August 2015, when the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, appointed Col. Ali (rtd), a non career Customs Officer, the CG of the NCS, there was no Minister of Finance, or any person acting on that behalf.
“That Col. Ali (rtd) served as the Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) a political and cultural association of leaders in Northern States of Nigeria formed in 2000. The AFC has been associated with the Arewa People’s Congress (APC), a militant group set-up to protect the interests of the Hausa-Fulani people in Northern Nigeria”, Okonkwo stated.
He told the court that Ali is a die-hand arrow head of ACF and for many years served as the Secretary General of the sectional association whose membership is only open to all northerners of the 19 states and Federal Capital Territory, not below the age of 18 years and who subscribe to its aims and objectives. That 4th defendant retired on a rank of Colonel from Nigeria Army in 1999, and is a pensioner and so, cannot head a civil service position in the NCS except as a contract staff.
Okonkwo, however, said that by the irregular and unconstitutional appointment of Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) an outsider to head the NCS after retirement from the Nigeria Army 20 years ago, has an input of the Arewa Consultative Forum and a northernization agenda, considering that President Muhammadu Buhari is a patron of the ACF.