16 April 2014, Abuja – Twenty-one traditional rulers from the oil producing areas of the Niger Delta, Tuesday, besieged the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, asking for an expeditious hearing of a N500billion suit they filed against the Federal Government.
The plaintiffs maintained that the amount in question, meant for disbursement to the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, between 2001 and 2009, was withheld when President Olusegun Obasanjo was in power.
The monarchs, who commenced the legal action on behalf of themselves and their communities under the platform of the Traditional Rulers of the Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, alleged that the Federal Government frustrated hearing on the matter “through its futile out-of-court settlement pledge.”
The case which was earlier fixed for hearing, yesterday, could not go on as the court did not seat, though the Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, said a new date would be given.
Listed as defendants in the suit were the Attorney General of the Federation, Minister of Finance, the Finance Ministry and NDDC.
In a writ of summons filed by their lawyer Dr. Alex Izinyon, SAN, the plaintiffs were praying the court for “a declaration that the acts of the 2nd and 3rd defendants in non-disbursement of the sum of N484, 450, 551, 137.91 from the Federation Account, being part of the statutory contribution to the Niger Delta Development Commission between 2001 and 2009.
, was unlawful and ultra vires the powers of the 2nd and 3rd defendants.”
They are further seeking an order of court directing the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants to remit the sum of N484, 450, 551, 137.91 to the 4th defendants the amount being the difference between the statutorily generated 15 per cent total amount from the Federation Account, as prescribed in the Niger Delta Development Commission (Establishment, Etc) Act, between 2001 and 2009.
They also want an order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Defendants from further withholding the said amount of N484, 450, 551, 137.91 and any other statutory allocation due for disbursement for the speedy development of the oil mineral producing communities of the Niger Delta States of the Federation.
To justify their claim before the court, the plaintiffs attached a-24 paragraph statement of claims to their writ, wherein they averred that “between 2001 and 2009, the 2nd and 3rd defendants (Finance Minister and Finance Ministry) released the sum of N202, 202, 568, 107.00 only as funds contribution from the Federation Account to the NDDC out of a total of N686, 653, 441, 244.92 being the actual 15 per cent statutory allocation which ought to have been paid from the Federation Accounts to the 4th Defendants, NDDC..”
It is the case of the plaintiffs that the difference of N484, 450, 551, 137. 91 out of the said total of N686, 653, 441, 244.92 had not been remitted to the NDDC between 2001 and 2009 by the 2nd and 3rd defendants, whose statutory duties was to do so.
They further averred that “the effect of the non release of these funds have stagnated development and have crippled the NDDC in carrying out its statutory obligations to the communities in the Niger Delta region. In addition, they also averred that the non release of these funds for the development of this area led to youth restiveness, rise in crime rate, militancy, kidnapping, joblessness and lack of social amenities: clean water, health care, roads, markets and food in the Niger Delta region.
The plaintiffs argued that if the stated sum of N484, 450, 551,137.91 had been released to the NDDC, it would have bettered the living conditions of the people living in the region.
“If the money is released, it will go a long way in solving the perennial problems and crisis bedevilling the region,” they added.
Meanwhile, addressing newsmen yesterday, the traditional rulers, through their spokesman, His Royal Majesty, Eze Raphael Akuwueze Ikegwuruka, said they were forced to seek the intervention of the judiciary because of the reluctance of the government to release the outstanding funds which was meant for infrastructure development of the Niger Delta, despite continued environmental degradation occasioned by oil exploration in the area.
”It has become public knowledge that since the establishment of the Commission in 2001 to date, there has been violations of the funding provisions of the Act by the various contributor to the fund.
”Not all the oil and gas producing and processing companies have complied with the provisions of the act. Of greatest worry to us as the custodians of the social and cultural values of our people is the failure of the Federal Government to comply with the funding provisions as stipulated in the Act.
”We cannot be under democratic rule and rule of law is jettisoned overboard. Since 2011 we have been in court to compel compliance by the Federal Government with the funding provisions of the Act.
”We appeal to all our subjects in the Niger delta region to remain calm as we seek the only civilized option in this our collective quest for social! economic and environmental justice for the oil bearing communities in Nigeria,” he declared.
– See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/04/n500bn-nddc-suit-court-niger-delta-monarchs/#sthash.mpZwoNai.dpuf
– Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Vanguard