Lawyer asks court to declare NSIA illegal

NSIA Managind Director, Mr. Uche Orji (Photo Credit: Ezekiel Oyero)
NSIA Managing Director, Mr. Uche Orji (Photo Credit: Ezekiel Oyero)

An Abuja-based lawyer, Johnmary Jideobi, on Friday, filed a suit before the Federal High Court in Abuja, seeking the suspension of the Managing Director of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), Uche Orji.

Mr Jideobi also wants the court to order a forensic audit of the organisation’s accounts from inception and to declare the NSIA as an unconstitutional body.

The lawyer’s request is contained in an application for interlocutory injunction made available to PREMIUM TIMES, which he filed on Friday alongside the main suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2020.

The defendants in the suit are the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan (first); the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila (second); the National Assembly (third), and its clerk, Mohammed Sani-Omolori (fourth).

Others are the NSIA (fifth), the agency’s MD, Mr Orji (sixth); the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (seventh), and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed (eighth).

Mr Jideobi is in his suit challenging the legality of the NSIA, which was created by the NSIA (Establishment) Act 2011 during the Goodluck Jonathan administration to receive, manage and invest some of the Federation Account funds to prepare for any eventual depletion of Nigeria’s oil reserve.

The lawyer argued that various provisions of the NSIA Act violated the provisions of sections 80 and 162 of the Nigerian Constitution which created the Federation Account/Consolidated Revenue Fund Account and provided that all revenues accruing to the federal government must be paid into them and shared by the tiers of governments.

He also argued that the National Assembly lacks the power to make a law like the NSIA which he contended authorised the violation of the provisions of sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution.

Mr Jideobi sought for an order, “suspending the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the 5th defendant, NSIA, from office forthwith to pave way for a forensic audit into all the accounts and all the investments made by the 5th defendant commencing from June, 2011 to the date”.

He also sought an order “appointing a reputable auditing firm like Pricewaterhouse Coopers Limited or Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited to undertake a forensic audit of all the accounts and all the investments of the 5th defendant from June, 2011 to the date.”

The lawyer is also asking the court to order the Minister of Finance to “defray the expenses arising from the forensic audit.”

Mr Jideobi said he sought the court orders “to enable the Nigerian nation to understand what has happened to their humongous wealth allocated to the 5th defendant (NSIA) in the midst of massive want, abject poverty and especially in this unfortunate era of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic further impoverishing the Nigerian people.”

The plaintiff noted that as recent as March 10, 2020, the Senate Committee on Finance was informed by the Accountant-General of the Federation “that the National Economic Council agreed to invest $250,000,000 from the Excess Crude Account into the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority.”

He sought among others, an order striking down 4, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52 of the NSIA Act which he argued violated sections 4, 7, 80 and 162 of the 1999 Constitution(as Amended).

The lawyer is also seeking a mandatory order “commanding the Federal Government of Nigeria, represented by the 6th defendant (AGF), to immediately dispose of all the assets and investments of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, sweep same into the Federation Account”.

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No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit.

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