Mrs. Lauretta Onochie may have been confirmed as the substantive Chairman of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) board, but a Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday has stopped her inauguration and has thrown a warning her way that she could end up in jail for contempt.
But the true fireworks over the court order was adjourned to January 11, 2023, when the substantive suit that led to the order comes up.
Some leaders of thought from Delta State went to court to stop Onochie as NDDC Chairman and Chief Samuel Ogbuku as Managing Director of the NDDC because it is not the turn of their parts of the country to produce the heads of the lucrative federal government agency.
Onochie, the controversial former Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, was screened and confirmed by the Senate earlier in the week along 12 others into the board of the NDDC.
A court had last week granted an order stoppintg the National Assembly from screening and confirming the nomination of Onochie and the managing director of the commission, Chief Samuel Ogbuku.
The same court in a notice of consequences of disobedience to the order of the court dated 23rd day of December 2022, the court passed directions to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, Senate of the National Assembly, Onochie and Ogbuku on the consequences of flouting an earlier restraining order even as it stopped the inauguration of the new NDDC board.
“Take notice that unless you obey the directions contained in this order, you will be guilty of contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison”.
Justice J. K. Omotosho, directed that all actions on the matter be suspended pending the determination of the suit.
Recall that Chief Edward Ekpoko, and Engineer Victor Wood, who are representing the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought, and Mr. Edward Omagbemi, who is representing Omadino Unity Forum all, on behalf of the Itsekiri ethnic nationality of Delta State are seeking whether upon the proper construction of Section 12 (1) and other enabling sections of the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment Etc) Act 2000 as amended and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) it is not the turn of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality of Delta State, the highest oil producing region of the Delta State to produce the next chairman and managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that the nomination of Onochie, who hails from a non-oil producing area in Delta State as Chairman of NDDC by President Buhari is unlawful for being contrary to the intent and purpose of NDDC Act.
They are also seeking a declaration that the nomination of Chief Samuel Ogbuku, who hails from Bayelsa State as Managing Director of NDDC by President Buhari, when it is the turn of the Itsekiri Ethnic Nationality of Delta State to produce the Managing Director of the Commission, is unlawful for being contrary to the intent and purpose of the NDDC Act.
They are seeking an order quashing the nomination of Onochie and Ogbuku as Chairman and Managing Director as well as restraining the President of the Senate and the Senate of the National Assembly from screening and confirming Onochie and Ogbuku as Chairman and Managing Director respectively.