The case, instituted in November 2015 to challenge the appointment of Ali as the Comptroller-General, CG, of Customs by President Muhammadu Buhari, seeks the interpretation of the court as to whether the President could appoint anyone as Customs boss without complying with section 3 of the Official Gazette of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made on 25th March 2002
It was stipulated in the Official Gazette that only those within the rank of Deputy Comptroller General of Customs can be elevated as substantive Comptroller General.
The NCS responded to the case by filing a preliminary objection dated 29th April, 2016, challenging the locus standi of the applicant to file and maintain the suit. It contended that Adegboruwa’s suit was a mere academic exercise raising hypothetical questions that the court should not entertain.
The Justice Muslim Sule Hassan-led court heard arguments from counsel to the parties on June 15, 2016 and adjourned to Friday, September 16, 2016, for judgment.
In its judgment on Friday, the court held that the President is empowered under section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, to exercise all executive powers, either by himself directly or through officers delegated for that purpose.
The court held further that under section 171 of the same Constitution, the President is empowered to appoint public officers and thus, the appointment of Ali was validly made and same will stand in law, notwithstanding any non compliance with any existing gazette to the contrary.
Noting that Adegboruwa merited the qualities narrated in his affidavit to qualify him to institute the action in court, the court ruled that he has not shown sufficient or special interest that robes him with the requisite locus standi to maintain the action, not being a customs officer himself and having not shown any way in which he has been or would be affected by the appointment.
Justice Hassan stated that the case of Senator Abraham Adesanya v President, FRN, is still the locus classicus on issue of locus standi and that it would not agree with Adegboruwa that the latter case of Chief Gani Fawehinmi v President, FRN, has opened the floodgate for citizens to challenge all government actions. The court then upheld the preliminary objection of the respondents and struck out the case without any order as to costs.
Responding to the ruling, Adegboruwa commended the wisdom of the learned judge, explaining that he filed the case upon his conviction that all the actions of our leaders must conform with law and due process.
He pleaded with the judge to assist in furnishing copies of the judgment to the parties.
This is not the first time a case will be instituted, challenging the appointment of Ali to head the NCS. An anti-corruption crusader, Ifeanyichukwu Okonkwo had filed a case at the Federal High Court sitting in Umuahia, Abia State, challenging the constitutionality of the appointment.
He asked the court to declare that the appointment of the retired colonel as Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Services by President Buhari violated 5(1), 147(1), 148, 151 and 171(1) of the 1999 constitution as amended and the purported appointment is ‘ultra vires’ of the president’s executive powers and duties and thereby a flagrant breach of his Oath of Office.