Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State is trying to tighten up the loopholes in the purported appointment of a new Director General for the Delta State Traffic Management Agency (DESTMA) following a blunder on the part of the state government about the reported appointment.
BIGPEN Online investigation revealed that one Samuel Azubuike Idah, a retired naval commander was unceremoniously asked to resume as new Director General of traffic agency before the governor sent his name to the state assembly for screening and confirmation.
The tenure of the former director general of the agency ought to expire in June 2020 in accordance with the law establishing the traffic agency.
But it was gathered that the Idah took over the affairs of the agency from the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation after the former DG of the establishment, Olorogun Stephen Dieseruvwe was allegedly edged out.
Dieseruvwe, was still reporting to work after the dissolution of boards of agencies, parastatals and extra-ministerial departments which came via two separate government special announcement of 27th and 28th of May 2019 before he was asked to stop work abruptly.
The Delta State Traffic Management Agency (DESTMA) and Delta Board of Internal Revenue (DBIR) are statutory agencies of government which has fixed tenure. They were not mentioned in the list of boards announced to have been dissolved in May.
Dieseruvwe confirmed via telephone conversation that he was still going to work as DG after that government announcement when the Secretary to the state Government, Mr. Chinedu Ebie reportedly gave him an oral instruction to stop acting and that his agency has been dissolved.
Findings revealed that the state government later sent a circular dated 10th June to DESTMA announcing that the Permanent Secretary should take charge of the agency until further notice.
But for reasons yet to be established, Idah without being appointed in accordance with the act establishing the agency, however assumed the duties of the DG and had from September 23rd 2019 attending to files, signing memo and others as director general of the establishment.
He reportedly appeared before the state House of Assembly committee on Transportation to defend the budget of the agency as a Director General of DESTMA even when he was yet to be screened and confirmed by same House.
Dieseruvwe, a social crusader turned politician was the pioneer Director General of DESTMA which was established during the second tenure of former governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan.
BIGPEN Online could not verify how Idah became a DG but documents seen shows he has long assumed the role probably after an appointment which was kept secret for reason yet to be fathom.
Mr. Idah was after the agency was established in 2013 served as Head of Operations with social crusader turned politician, Olorogun Stephen Dieseruvwe as its pioneer Director General.
Irked by the official malfeasance, a Warri-based human rights lawyer, Omemiroro Ogedegbe, slapped the State Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the state assembly, DESTMA and Idah as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respondents respectively with a lawsuit challenging the purported appointment.
In a suit No. UHC/171/019 before the Ughelli High Court Judicial Division, Mr. Ogedegbe is seeking a declaration that the purported appointment of Azubuike Idah as DESTMA Director General by Governor Okowa without confirmation of the Delta State House of assembly is “a breach of the provisions of Section 12(1) of the DESTMA Law, 2013 No. 00 which states that “there shall be a Director General of the Authority DESTMA) who shall be appointed by the Governor subject to the confirmation of the House”.
In his relief, the activist is seeking “A declaration that the appointment of the 4th respondent (Idah) as Director General of the 3rd respondent (DESTMA), without the required ten (10) years cognate experience in traffic management, is in violation of Section 12 (3) of the Delta State Traffic Management Authority Law, 2013.
Section 12(3) of the law states: “The Director-General shall be a University/HND graduate with at least 10 years cognate experience in Road Traffic Management or other related matters”.
Ogedegbe argued that Mr. Idah was appointed Head of Operations of DESTMA in 2013 and does not possess the requisite10years cognate experience in road traffic management or other related matters to qualify his elevation to the office of Director General.
Consequently, he is seeking “An Order of Court squashing the appointment of the 4th respondent by the 1st respondent for non-compliance with the Delta State Traffic Management Authority Law”, as well as “An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the 1st respondent from carrying out any such appointment into the office of the 3rd respondent (DESTMA) without a confirmation by the 2nd respondent (DTHA).
The case was billed for hearing on Thursday, November 28th, 2019.
But in a dramatic twist a letter from the governor appointing Idah as new DG of DESTMA surfaced at the assembly same date and was read by the Speaker, Rt. Hon Sheriff Oborevwori during Thursday plenary.
The governor said that the appointment was in exercise of the powers conferred on him by section 12 sub Section 1 of the Delta State Traffic Management Authority (Establishment Law 2013).
The governor said he would appreciate if prompt action is taken to place the name of the nominee before the House for consideration and confirmation to enable him effects his appointment in line with the law.
Oborevwori thereafter directed the nominee to submit thirty five copies of his curriculum vitae to the office of the Clerk on or before December 2, 2019 and appear for screening on Tuesday December 3, 2019.
At the Thursday hearing of the lawsuit, Mr. Ogedegbe had urged the court to enter judgement as all the parties have been served and in moving his application, he told the court that the Governor as Chief Executive Officer of the State is empowered by law to protect the state laws from abuse and not to stand as the chief abuser.
Speaking on the sideline, Ogedegbe also said that Governor Okowa in a desperate attempt to destroy the subject matter of litigation has sent the name of the said Cdr Azubuike Idah (rtd) to the House of Assembly for confirmation and same was read on the floor of the House of Assembly today, 28th November 2019 with the sole aim of frustrating the subject matter of litigation.
But the court could not proceed further as the bailiff informed the court that the 4th respondent, Cdr Azubuike (rtd) had avoided personal service.
Consequently, the matter was adjourned to January 21, 2020 for adoption of written addresses.
Reacting to the development, an advocate for good governance, Ibebe Rufus Akpobome, said that the purported appointment is an illegality that would not stand adding, “we would resist this act of injustice and attempt to frustrate court proceeding and legalise an illegal act with all legal means possible”.
“In an attempt to stop the law from taking its full course and to legalize the state governor’s illegal act of appointing a new DESTMA DG without following due process, the State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi has sent the name of Cdr Samuel Azubuike Idah (rtd) to Delta State House of Assembly for clearance to be appointed as DESTMA DG on the 28th of November, 2019.
“Gov. Okowa is sending the name of Samuel Azubuike Idah (rtd) to the State House of Assembly to be cleared and appointed the DG of DESTMA, for an office Idah claimed to have been appointed and has since 23rd September 2019 been performing the functions signing memos and appearing before the House of Assembly Committee on Transports to defend DESTMA’s 2020 Budget.
The activist however slammed the state government with three posers as follows:
1. If his name is just being sent, was it not illegal and criminal to perform the functions of that office until date, and shouldn’t a criminal proceeding be instituted?
2. On whose instruction did he resume as DG of DESTMA, giving financial approval for a position he was not duly cleared to occupy?
3. Has governance in Delta State been taken to this level of impunity where individuals just resume and assume positions because of their closeness to those at the helm of affairs?