Trouble looms as lawyer asks court to suspend sovereign wealth MD, Uche Orji
An Abuja-based lawyer, Mr Johnmary Jideobi, has urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to suspend the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, Uche Orji, and order a forensic audit of the organisation’s accounts from inception.
The request is contained in an application for interlocutory injunction which the plaintiff filed on Friday along with the main suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/628/2020.
The suit is challenging the legality of the NSIA, which was created by the NSIA (establishment) Act 2011 during the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration to receive, manage and invest some of the Federation Account funds to prepare for the eventual depletion of Nigeria’s oil reserve.
But the plaintiff argued in his suit 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 lacked 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.
The defendants in the suit include the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; the National Assembly, and its clerk, Mohammed Sani-Omolori.
The rest of the defendants are the NSIA, the agency’s managing director, Orji; the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.
In the interlocutory application which he filed along with the main suit on Friday, the plaintiff prayed 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.”
He also asked the court to order the office Minister of Finance to “defray the expenses arising from the forensic audit.”
According to him, 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.”
The plaintiff sought among others, an order striking down the various provisions of the NSIA Act which he argued violated sections 4, 7, 80 and 162 of Nigerian Constitution.
He also sought 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”.Punch