ACTIVIST LAWYER, FESTUS KAYAMO, now Minister of State, Labour and Productivity, on July 1, 2013, got an Abuja High Court judgement, delivered by Justice A Bello, in the case, Festus Kayemo Versus Goodluck Jonathan and four others, that declared the appointment of Service Chiefs, without confirmation by Nigerian Senate and House of Representarives, null and void.  The judgement stated that the appointments violated Section 18(1) and (2) of the Armed Forces Acts. Cap A20, Laws of the Federal of Nigerian, 2004.

January 7, 2014, about six months after, Festus Kayamo, wrote President Goodluck Jonathan; David Mark, Senate President; and Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives, over the illegality of retaining the Service Chiefs, in disregard for the court judgement. Kayamo gave 14 days ultimate to the government, or he would return to the court to enforce compliance of the judgement.

January 16, 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan, in compliance with the Abuja High Court judgement, announced the removal of the Service Chiefs. The affected Service Chiefs were Azubuike Ihejirika, Chief of Army Staff; Alex Badeh, Chief of Air Staff; and Dele Ezeoba, Chief of Naval Staff.  They were appointed without the confirmation of the National Assembly.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan, thereafter, appointed new Service Chiefs and subjected them to the confirmation of the National Assembly, in compliance with the judgement of the Abuja High Court. A belated demonstration of obedience to the rule of law.  It did not require Goodluck Jonathan, to wait for six months before complying with the judgement of a the High Court.  Neither was it necessary for Festus Kayamo, to issue 14 days ultimatum for the government to comply with the judgement.


IN SIMILAR SITUATION, SOME NIGERIAN SOUTHERN ELDERS, have instituted a N50b suit, against President Buhari, for violating Nigerian Constitution on Federal Character policy on appointments into political and public service offices in the country. The same scenario, as in Festus Kayamo versus Goodluck is playing up. The Elder statesmen and leaders of social-cultural platforms in Nigeria’s southern region – 16 in number, Monday, June 22, filed a N50 billion suit against President Buhari, over lopsided appointments he had made in the country, since his assumption of office as president in 2015. 

Mike Ozekhome and Solomon Asemota, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, are lead counsels for the applicants. The case was filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja. Edwin Clerk is leading 16 Elder Statesmen in the suite.  The senior citizens listed in the suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/595/2020, are Edwin Clark; Reuben Fasoranti; John Nnia Nwodo; Pogu Bitrus; Ayo Adebanjo; Alaowei Broderick Bozimo; Sarah Doketri; Chukwuemeka Ezeife; Idongesit Nkanga; Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; Julie Umukoro; Stephen Bangoji; Tijani Babatunde; Rose Obuoforibo; Adakole Ijogi; and Charles Nwakeaku.

The plaintiffs have claimed that the Southern Region is “deliberately marginalised by President Buhari government.” They are asking the court to, among other things, determine whether it was not “reckless and adverse to the interest of Nigeria, for President Buhari to obtain a loan facility from the Islamic Development Bank, African Development Bank, the World Bank, China, Japan, and Germany, amounting to $22.7 billion, for infrastructural development, only to allocate the bulk of the fund to the northern region.”

They are, also, seeking declaration that the “loan facility purportedly for infrastructural development, wherein less than one per cent of the amount is to be allocated to the South-East zone of Nigeria for specific infrastructural development, violates Section 16 (1) (a) (b) and S16 (2) (a) (b) (c) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

Justice Okon Abang, presiding judge, fixed July 10 for hearing the case. He directed Ozekhome, counsel to the plaintiffs, Monday, to serve the court processes on all the defendants. The claimants, specifically, are praying the court to determine, “whether the power to appoint designated public officers, including permanent secretaries, principal representatives of Nigeria abroad, which is vested in the first defendant, has been lawfully exercised by him since the inception of his administration from 2015, till date, and whether his actions are in breach of Sections 171(5), 814(3) (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”


They also want the court to determine whether all the “appointments are in compliance with Sections 81(2), 814(3)(4), 821 (7) (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).” Therefore, urged the court to award N50 billion against the defendants to “represent punitive, aggravated and exemplary damages” to their constituents “for the illegal, wrongful discriminatory and unconstitutional acts committed by the first defendant” against the people of the plaintiffs’ states and geopolitical zones.

Abubakar Umar, retired Colonel in Nigerian army, and former Governor of Kaduna State, in an open letter of Sunday, May 30, 2020, to President Buhari, stated that Nigeria risks sliding into crisis if the president “continues to give undue preference to some sections of the country over others” in national appointments. He said Nigeria has become “dangerously polarized” under Buhari’s government.

Umar, specifically, pointed out the glaring lopsided appointment in the leadership of the nation’s security services. He drew the president’s attention to actions of former Nigerian leaders that rose above ethnic and sectional considerations, in acting in the interest of the nation.  Umar titled the letter “Mr. President, Please Belong To All Of Us”. Perhaps, to remind Buhari of his famous 2015 inaugural speech: “I Belong To Everybody and I Belong To Nobody”.

Former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen was cited in his letter as a case in point, who he said was disgraced out of office on corruption charges. Having resigned from office, Onnoghen was convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal.  Umar said Nigerians were of the opinion that Onnoghen, from Cross River, south-south Nigeria, was “hounded” out of office for northern candidate to take over as Chief Justice of Nigeria.

Onnoghen was appointed CJN, November 10, 2016, on acting capacity for three months.  His confirmation was unduly delayed, until the absence of President Buhari, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo forwarded his name to the Senate for confirmation, and was sworn in by Osinbajo, March 7, 2017.


Umar said: “You may wish to recall that I had cause to appeal to you, to confirm Justice Onnoghen as the substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria a few days before the expiration of his three months tenure of the acting appointment to be replaced by a Muslim Northerner”.

“We were saved that embarrassment when his nomination was sent to the senate by the then acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo. When he was finally confirmed a few days to the end of his tenure, he was removed after a few months and replaced by Justice Muhammed, a Muslim from the North.”

Another focus of Umar’s letter was the pending appointment of Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a northern Christian, as President of Nigeria’s Court of Appeal, following the retirement of the former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Bukachua. Justice Mensem’s appointment on substantive position was already generating public concern, having served out three months in acting capacity, and was placed on another three months acting capacity.

“May I also invite the attention of Mr. President to the pending matter of appointment of a Chief Judge of the Nigerian Court Appeal which appears to be generating public interest. As it is, the most senior Judge, Justice Monica Dongban Mensem, a northern Christian, is serving out her second three-month term as acting Chief Judge without firm prospects that she will be confirmed substantive head.

“I do not know Justice Mensem but those who do attest to her competence, honesty and humility. She appears eminently qualified for appointment as the substantive Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal as she is also said to be highly recommended by the National Judicial Council.

“If she is not and is bypassed in favour of the next in line who happens to be another northern Muslim, that would be truly odd. In which case, even the largest contingent of PR gurus would struggle to rebut the charges that you, Mr. President, is either unwilling or incapable of acting on your pledge to belong to everyone — and to no one.

“I hope you would see your way into pausing and reflecting on the very grave consequences of such failure not just to your legacy but to the future of our great country,” Umar said.

President Buhari, having totally disregarded clarion calls to abide by the provision of Nigerian Constitution on Federal Character appointments into political and public offices in the country, the battle shifts to the court room.  Buhari and his advisers are expected to present to the court, what they have claimed were the justifications for such lopsided appointments.