The National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has commenced contempt proceedings against the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, for allegedly disregarding series of Court orders that affirmed Alhaji Abubakar Farouk as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML).
This is sequel to the decision of the minister to include AMML in the list of heads of agencies asked to vacate their seats in a September 27, 2023 in a press statement issued by the minister to this effect.
Also joined in the contempt charges for which all parties involved have been served is the Abuja Investment Company Limited (AICL), former Acting Managing Director of AMML, Engineer Yakubu Abbas and the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA).
In the form 48, prepared on 3rd November, 2023 with the title, Notice of Consequences of Disobedience to Order of Court: Brought Pursuant to Section 72 Sheriff and Civil Process Act, 2004; Order IX Rules 1-3 of the Judgment Enforcement Rules and Under the Inherent Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, it was noted that, “Unless you (the Defendants) obey the orders and directions contained in the judgment of this Honourable Court entered on 20th July 2023 and the order of this Honourable Court made on 26th day of July 2023, you will be guilty of the contempt of court and will be liable to be committed to prison.”
Faruk’s counsel, observing that the statement, signed by the Director (Press) in the minister’s office, Mr. Anthony Ogunleye, may have been released without recurs to the peculiar situations surrounding the agency’s headship and the legal events that preceded the appointment of Nyesom Wike as minister of the FCT, Counsel to the AMML Managing Director, Faruk Kemiel Khamagam, of Ruklyn Law Chambers, in a correspondence to the minister dated September 28th (one day after the Press Statement was published) provided details on the series of court judgments that affirmed Farouk’s status as substantive CEO of AMML. The contempt proceedings, titled: ALH. ABUBAKAR USMAN FARUK vs. MINISTER OF FCT & 3 ORS in suit No. NICN/ABJ/62/2023 filed at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, Abuja Division is in effect to the allegation that the Minister and the three others are acting in contempt of the orders of the National Industrial Court, made on 20th of July, 2023, restraining them from giving effect to the purported letter of termination of the employment of Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk as the Managing Director of Abuja Markets Management Limited. According to Faruk’s counsel, “They have continued to disregard the valid subsisting and positive order of the court.”
Putting these out in details, Khamagam said, “Specifically, the court ordered that they are restrained from giving effect to the termination of the employment of Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk as the M.D of AMML, which was contained in their letter dated 17th July, 2023, until our counterpart motion on Notice is heard and determined; “That they should not in any way interfere in the management, business and corporate affairs of the AMML and that Status quo ante be maintained until the counterpart motion on notice is heard and determined. That status quo ante is that Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk is and remains the M.D & C.E.O of AMML.”
Continuing, he said, “Despite the order of court which is still subsisting, The Minister of FCT, The AICL and Engr. Abbas Yakubu among others, have continued to abuse and disobey the court order. Detailing how they have allegedly violated the court orders, Khamagam said: “One, the Minister of FCT, by a press release published on September 27th, 2023, announced the sacking of the heads of agencies and companies of FCT, and 2nd on the list of the said agencies of FCT whose heads have been sacked is the M.D of AMML who is Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk. This is in disobedience to the order of the National Industrial Court which says his employment with AMML should not be tampered with.
“But much more than that, the action of the Minister is also in violation of the judgment of the Federal High Court in Suit. No. FHC/ABJ/CS/499/2023 delivered on 10th July 2023, coram: D. U. Okorowo J. that Judgment perpetually restrained the Hon. Minister of FCT and the FCTA from dissolving and reconstituting the Board of AMML by political fiat or press statement, without first following the procedure of CAMA, 2020. The court declared that doing so is ultra vires the powers of the FCT Minister and the FCTA. Now, that is exactly what the Minister has done by announcing the sack of M.D of AMML without first following the procedure under CAMA.”
On the part of AICL and the FCTA, he said: “The AICL and FCTA, have continued to insist on the termination of the employ of Alhaji Abubakar Usman Faruk as the managing director of AMML as contained in their letter of 17th July 2023, and are parading Engr. Muhammad Yakubu Abbas as the “acting M.D” of AMML. This is against the order of the NICN. “Engr. Yakubu Abbas himself, has been parading himself as the acting MD of AMML and has been signing and issuing documents in that capacity, in the name of AMML from unknown locations. It is noteworthy that, the said Engr. MOHAMMED YAKUBU ABBAS is not even a staff of AMML, because, by the judgment of the Federal High Court in suit we mentioned above, the board resolution of the Board of AMML passed at the 32nd Board meeting of AMML which brought in the said Engr. Abbas was nullified by the Federal High Court, so he ceased to be a staff of AMML since 10th July 2023 when the judgment was passed.”
Frontline News Online learnt that seems like a confirmation of these allegations of contempt occurred on Monday November 6, 2023 when truck-loads of policemen from various Commands and formations were deployed on the purported order of the FCT Commissioner of Police through the respective DPOs including that of Durunmi to AMML’S corporate office at Gudu.
This newspaper gathered that upon arrival, they simply asked the staff on ground if there were any problem, only for the surprised staff to affirm that there was none. This was after the police men, including senior officers had said they were asked to come and help forestall any case of breakdown of Law and Order within the premises.
Legal Adviser and Company Secretary of AMML, Barrister Abu Edache, confirmed Monday’s happenings, saying, “When I resumed I saw a flood of armed police men all over the premises. Upon getting to the office, I was told that they had come to ensure safety of the place. But I told them that I am not aware that AMML made any complaint to the police to that effect. In fact, there should be any of such complaint, it should have come from me.”
“The Police men, including those from the Mobile Unit, the Special Force, and other units led by one DSP Bello Adamu visibly spent most of the day around the premises. The real agenda unfolded later in the evening when they provided a memo from the FCTA signed by the General Counsel, Salman Dako, purportedly written on behalf of the FCT Minister to the Commissioner of Police, FCT asking the CP to prevent the MD, Faruk and the Legal Adviser from gaining entrance into the office. Although, the memo by Dako cited the quashed termination of Faruk as they reason for the request, it did not say why the Police is being asked to prevent Edache from entering the office”.
Speaking further Edache said, “We are law abiding citizens. We will never do anything to subvert the law. However, any attempt to trample our right would be resisted with every legal tool. It is time for the Minister to reassess his legal team at the ministry, so that they don’t end up misleading him into running foul of the law which he also swore to protect as both lawyer and public servant. I am hopeful that the minister will act accordingly.
“Although this is one of many of such cases that the current Minister of FCT may have inherited from the past administration of the FCT, it remains a test case for him, especially as a lawyer and life bencher at that”.