The Nigerian Senate on Thursday called on President Muhammadu Buhari to obey the judgment of the Court of Appeal on the constitutional requirement in appointing an indigene of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT ) as a substantive member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
Senate said that this would be in line with the constitutional provisions that a minister be appointed from all the 36 states of the country and the FCT, ThisDay newspaper reported.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on the basis of a suit brought before it by concerned indigenes of FCT on the need for an indigene of the FCT to be among the serving ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria , ruled that the President should appoint an indigene of the FCT.
Senator Philip Tanimu Aduda representing FCT senatorial district had yesterday submitted a petition from an indigene of the territory, Mr Ezekiel .D. Musa, against the refusal of President Buhari to appoint anybody from the area as minister .
The Petition was subsequently considered by the Senate and forwarded to the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition for necessary legislative action.
The committee in its report submitted by Senator Ayo Akinyelure ( PDP Ondo Central), recommended that based on the decisions of the Court of Appeal Abuja and the Constitutional provisions of sections 299 and 147(3) , indigenes of FCT be granted approval by the President to be represented in the Federal Executive Council as Minister .
In approving the recommendation after exhaustive debate by Senators, the Senate through an amended prayer, resolved that “Senate notes the ruling of the Court of Appeal Abuja in respect of appointment of a Minister from the Federal Capital Territory and refer same to the Executive for consideration”.
The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe ( PDP Abia South), in his contribution at the plenary said that the Senate by the resolution has put on hold appointment of anybody from FCT as minister but the President of the Senate , Dr. Ahmad Lawan quickly interjected to say that it not represent the issues at hand.
Premium Times also reported that the Senate urged the executive to immediately appoint a minister among natives of the Federal Capital Territory in line with the Court of Appeal declaration.
The appeal court in Abuja had on January 15, 2018, ruled that indigenous inhabitants of the FCT are entitled to a ministerial representation in the Federal Executive Council as provided in Sections 147(3), 299, 14(3) and 42 of the 1999 constitution.
The call by the lawmakers was sequel to deliberation on a petition to the Senate over the exclusion of FCT indigenes in the recent ministerial appointments.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in July 2019, appointed 43 ministers with none of FCT origin.
Some FCT indigenes and the FCT senator, Philip Aduda, petitioned the Senate, seeking representation in the ministerial appointments.
Ayo Akinyelure, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Priviledges and Public Petitions, presented the report of the committee after consideration of the petition.
He recommended that based on the decision of the Court of Appeal and pursuant to the provision of Section 299 and section 147 (3), the Senate should give approval “that the indigene for FCT be granted approval by Mr President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to appoint a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in respect of FCT in Federal Executive Council.”
Lawmakers were divided on the issue. While some said the ruling was still subject to appeal by the federal government, others said it is unfair to deny the FCT indigenes of their rights.
Bashiru Ajibola (APC, Osun), said it is not a general conviction to equate the Federal Capital Territory to a state.
The recommendation, he said, is in “reliance to the ruling of the Court of Appeal and the rule of this Senate is when there is a matter before the court, the committee ought to decline jurisdiction.
“The court of appeal is an intermediate court in Nigeria, it is not the final court. So the position of the court of appeal is still subject to an appeal and it is not clearly shown that the matter has been appealed by the federal government. We should be careful not to turn ourselves to Supreme Court.”
Adamu Aliero (APC, Kebbi) who was a former FCT Minister said the judgement is subsisting.
“There is no appeal against the judgement and there is no evidence whatsoever that somebody has appealed to the Supreme Court. It is my opinion that the Senate consider the recommendation. FCT is to be considered a state, even though it is not a state, it has all the features of a state.”
Bala Na’allah explained that “when the Constitution said under 299 for the purpose of what was outlined should be treated as if it were a state, they know it is not a state and to further give it the structure that differentiates it from being a state, they say they cannot have local governments but area councils just to make sure that this confusion is made more clear.
“The judgement of the court of appeal as far as it stands today, remains a precedent too. The Senate is in a situation of neither here nor there,” he said.
For Biodun Olujimi (PDP, Ekiti), there is a need to give the FCT indigenes what they are asking for.
“I am taken aback that we are even discussing this issue at all. What is fair, is fair. Whether we like it or not, we remain the house of assembly of the FCT. If we are, what will prevent the FCT from having a nominee as Minister because that’s all they are asking for.
“They are saying they should be treated as a state. If they are working for this nation and we are all resident here, and we also draw everything from the FCT, fair is just fair, the FCT deserves someone to be nominated from their tribe as a minister,” she said.
The Senate thereafter resolved to “note the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja in respect of appointment of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to represent FCT Abuja and refer same to the executive for consideration.”