ABUJA, Nigeria – The Chairman of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad, has been dragged before a Federal High Court in Abuja over an alleged unlawful tenure elongation granted by the Federal Government.
Muhammad was sued along with President Muhammadu Buhari, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami and the Hajj Commission.
Muhammad and NAHCON board members were granted a six-month tenure elongation on May 25, 2019 at the expiration of their second and final terms. The extension expired November 25, 2019.
A Kano-based travel agency operator, Malam Masu’d Muazu, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/935/2019, asked the court 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 unconstitutional.
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 his second term in the office.
In an 11-paragraph affidavit of the originating summon, the 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.
Muazu, who is the chairman of Muntazam Travel Agency, Kano, recalled that former President Goodluck Jonathan granted another four year term to Muhammad in May 2015 which lapsed on May 25, 2019.
The plaintiff asserted that the SGF, via a memo of March 25, 2019 to Buhari,sought the extension of tenure of office for Muhammad and that the president subsequently 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 practicable to conclude the process of tenure renewal for the current or the appointment of a new team”.
Another memo of May 17, 2019 signed by Mustapha to the Muhammad 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 25, 2019”.
Muazu averred that the action of President Buhari amounted to an unlawful interference and prayed for another order directing President Buhari to appoint a fit and proper person to chairman the commission in line with the provisions of the NAHCON Act 2006.
On Wednesday, Muazu’s lawyer, Abba Hikima, said the case initially slated for hearing was postponed due to an official engagement of the Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, and that a new date has yet to be communicated to parties in the suit.