The Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Malam Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad has been dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja over an alleged unlawful tenure elongation he was granted by the Federal Government.
To this end, Muhammad was sued along with President Muhammadu Buhari, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami and the Hajj Commission for the roles they played in the alleged unlawful presidential act.
Muhammad and board members of the Hajj Commission were granted six-month tenure of office elongation in May this year by President Buhari at the expiration of their second and final tenure of office. A Kano based travel agency operator, Malam Masu’d Muazu who instituted the suit is praying the court to declare as unlawful and un-constitutional the extension of tenure of office for the beneficiaries.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2019 filed on behalf of the plaintiff by Ibrahim Alhassan, the Court was asked to hold that the presidential action violated section 171 of the 1999 section and section 5 of the National Hajj Commission FCT 2006. Plaintiff also sought the court declaration that the continued stay in office of Muhammad after the expiration of his second tenure of office is illegal, unlawful and un-constitutional.
Among others, he asked the court to determine whether by the combine provisions of section 171 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and section 5(1) of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (Establishment) Act, 2006, the President has power to elongate the tenure of Muhammad beyond 2nd terms in the office.
In an 11 paragraph affidavit in support of the originating summon, plaintiff averred that by section 5 of the NAHCON Act 2006, Muhammad is to hold office as a member or chairman of the Commission for two terms of four years each.
He claimed that Muhammad had previously served one tenure of four years as Executive Commissioner in charge of operations of the Commission from 2011 to 2015. Muazu who is the chairman of Muntazam Travel Agency, Kano claimed that former President Goodluck granted another four year term to Muhammad in May 2015 and that the tenure finally lapsed on 25th May 2019.
Against the provisions of the law, the plaintiff asserted that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation via a memo of 25 March, 2019 to President Buhari sought the extension of tenure of office for Muhammad and that Buhari acting on the memo granted six months tenure elongation in breach of the clear provision of the law that established the Commission.
The memo to President Buhari read: ” The purpose of this memo is to keep Your Excellency appraised that the tenure of the current chairman and members of the National Hajj Commission will soon come to an end and to seek Your Excellency’s approval for tenure extension for six months will not be practiable to conclude the process of tenure renewal for the current or the appointment of a new team”
In another memo of May 17, 2019 and signed by Boss Mustapha read: “I am pleased to inform you that Muhammadu Buhari, President, federal Republic of Nigeria has approved your appointment ‘as acting Chairman /member, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria with effect from May 2, 2019”.
Plaintiff averred that the action of President Buhari amounted to an unlawful interference in the administration and management of the Hajj Commission and that the unlawful and un-constitutional stay in office of Muhammad has been affecting activities of his company. He therefore prayed for an order of the court compelling Muhammad to vacate office immediately having over-stayed lawful tenure of office as Chairman of the Commission.
Plaintiff also prayed for another order of court directing President Buhari to appoint a fit and proper person to chairman the commission in line with the provision of the NAHFCON Act 2006. Meanwhile, the lawyer to the Plaintiff, Mr. Abba Hikima, who confirmed that the defendants have filed a written preliminary objection said that case which was initially slated for hearing last Friday, 2019 was postponed.
He said the hearing was put off due to official engaged of the Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho while a new date has yet to be communicated to parties in the matter.