By Adekola Omoluabi with additional reports from Bamidele Akinol a Ogundana
The controversy bugging the FCTA-owned company, Abuja markets management Limited [AMML] has continued unabated, culminating in the shutdown of its corporate Head office at Gudu District, Abuja on Friday 10th November, 2023.
A detachment of the Nigeria Police Force reportedly sealed up the Adisa Plaza Office of the Market Managers early morning on Friday, allegedly under the directives of the Hon. Minister FCT, Barr. Nyesom Wike.
Wike was said to have directed one Abubakar Usman Faruk to vacate the office of the Managing Director, AMML and stop parading himself as the MD/CEO of the company having been effectively relieved of that duty since July 17, 2023 by the shareholders of AMML.
Faruk obviously refused to heed the Hon. Minister’s advice, hence the police action, which was based on security reports alleging that Faruk posted private security guards heavily armed in the Head office in a bid to resist any attempt to ward him off. It would be recalled also, that the FCT minister had late September 2023, announced the removal of 21 heads of departments, Agencies and Government-owned Companies including that of Abuja Markets Management Limited.
Out of all, only Abubakar Faruk reportedly refused to hand over to the most senior office in the establishment as directed by the minister. He had claimed that there was an order of court restraining the Minister or anyone else from removing him as the Managing Director.
In a news report in the Daily Post of November 8, 2023, it was alleged that the National Industrial Court in Abuja on Wednesday “began contempt proceedings” against the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike and others over the alleged disregard of a series of court orders.
This development, it was reported,’ was sequel to the decision of the Minister to include the Managing Director Abuja Markets Management Limited (AMML), in the list of heads of agencies dissolved on September 27’.
Speaking on the reported “contempt proceedings”, the Company Secretary/Legal Adviser, Abuja Markets Management Limited Mr. Onya Nsor Ojiji in a statement said that the contempt proceeding could only exist in the imagination of its authors.
Mr. Ojiji stated ” categorically that there is no such contempt procedding against the FCT Minister or any other AICL/AMML staff at the National Industrial Court as the suit referred to in the publication has been assigned to another Judge and will start afresh(de novo)”.
The embattled former MD is therefore expected to either give the lie to the Company Secretary’s claim by pushing through the contempt proceeding to its logical conclusion, or save the FCT Administration and the Abuja Market Community further embarrassment.
Before the alleged “contempt proceedings”, Abubakar Faruk, having “sacked” all AMML staff opposed to his continued stay, had approached a Chief Magistrate court to among others give an order declaring their operations as AMML staff unlawful.
Interestingly, the Wuse Magistrate Court presided over by His Worship Huzaifa Maccido on November 2, 2023 dismissed the case.
In dismissing the case, the Court seemed to have affirmed that Mr. Abubakar Faruk has been properly relieved of his duties as the MD/CEO of AMML.
Part of the ruling reads thus: “the purported letter of dismissal attached by the Complainant/ Respondent as EXHIBIT AMML A is dated 31st Day of July, 2023 while the signatory to the letter who is one Abubakar Usman Faruk sacked by the owners of the Complainant vide EXHIBIT 4 attached by the Defendants/Objectors. The said EXHIBIT 4 is dated 17th July, 2023. I agree that as at the time the 4th defendant was purportedly sacked, Mr. Abubakar Usman Faruk had no power to do so having being sacked on 17/7, 2023”, the ruling continued.
It would be recalled that Abubakar Usman Faruk was appointed the MD/CEO of Abuja Markets Management Limited in April 2009. He was redeployed following allegations of involvement in the scandalous informal market project in Area 10(UTC) transit way, the allegations bordered on lack of approval for the development on a rail transit way and illegal sale of the stalls by the former MD.
Though on redeployment away from AMML, Faruk reportedly drew his full salaries and allowances from AMML as Managing Director including upfront allowances up until July 2023 when he was reportedly fired by the Company’s shareholders.
Appointed by the then Minister, Adamu Aliero, Faruk had gone to court 14 years after to challenge the power of a Minister to redeploy him, citing the provisions of Company and Allied Matters ACT, 2020.
The Federal High Court, Abuja had ruled that the redeployment was not done in line with CAMA provisions thereby pronouncing him as both the MD/CEO as well as a Director. Armed with this order but without due process, Faruk had reportedly embarked on self-help to take over the office of the MD/CEO of AMML and had continued to use same to keep himself on the seat until this recent seal up.
Not minding his base approach, the Company owners ensured that Faruk was duly and effectively relieved of his job when the shareholders in an extraordinary General Meeting July 17,2023 fired him for “services no longer required”.
This he still challenged, making stakeholders wonder if Faruk is a shareholder in AMML. If he is not, can he impose himself on his employers? they ask. A search at CAC reveals that Faruk is NOT a shareholder of AMML and cannot remain the Managing Director having been removed by the shareholders. His position as MD/CEO is one of employment as a staff of the company subject to its conditions of service, which allow him to be removed anytime his services are no longer required. The legal position and trite law is that no Court can impose an employee on an unwilling employer.
Keen observers are of the view that instead of being grateful for an uncommon opportunity, the very long stay apparently had a negative impact of entitlement on Mr. Faruk.
It can’t be said that Faruk has been fair to the FCT Administration and Company that gave him an uncommon opportunity of close to 15 years tenure. His last days can only be said to be hurting to the FCT. He only succeeded in building strife and giving bad publicity to a hitherto relatively unknown Government- owned Company, whilst obstructing work flow.
It is however believed among close watchers that Faruk’s rare luck as the longest serving FCT appointee may turn into a misfortune should the administration decide to probe his years as the Chief Executive of the Market Management Company.