• Fri. Sep 29th, 2023

$418m debt: Court fixes Dec. 21 for hearing on pending suit by Nigerian governors

ByBassey Udo

Dec 14, 2021


A Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed December 21 for hearing on all pending applications in a suit filed by the 36 state governors over the proposal by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) to deduct about $418 million from their accounts to settle judgment debt in relation to Paris Club Refund.

Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date after taking arguments for and against the plaintiffs’ application for interlocutory injunction from counsel to the parties in the suit.

Ekwo, who refused to grant the prayers on the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction by the plaintiffs on the grounds that the jurisdiction of the court had been challenged by the defendants, ordered that the preliminary objections and the substantive matter would be taken in the next adjourned date.

“In the absence of jurisdiction, the court will be acting in futility, no matter how well a proceeding is conducted. The product of such a proceeding in other words is a nullity,” he said.

“It is my opinion that the jurisdiction of this court, having been challenged by the preliminary objections upon the grounds which I have stated in this ruling, it will be improper and indeed, inappropriate to consider the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction or grant the prayers of the plaintiffs/applicants.

“It is also my opinion that the moment the jurisdiction of this court was disputed by the defendants, the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction became overtaken by event and lost its priority in the proceedings.

“As it is, the prayers on the motion on notice cannot be granted. I, therefore, make an order refusing the prayers,” Ekwo ruled.

The judge adjourned the case until December 21 for hearing of the preliminary objections of the defendants and the substantive matter.
The Attorneys-General and Commissioners of Justice of the 36 states sued the Federal Government and listed the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Accountant General of the Federation and Ministry of Finance as defendants.

Other defendants are the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Debt Management Office (DMO), Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), Incorporated Trustees of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), among others.

The motion by the governors dated and filed October 27, sued 43 defendants in the matter.

On November 5, the court restrained the Federal Government from deducting the monies from the federation account to settle the judgment debt in relation to Paris Club Refund.

The ruling followed an ex-parte motion moved by counsel to the 36 state governments, Jibrin Okutekpa, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN0, seeking an order of interim injunction, restraining the Federal Government from deducting any money accruing or due to all or any of the 36 states of the federation.

The court also ruled that the restraining order would subsist pending the determination of the substantive suit.

On December 7, when the matter came up, Justice Ekwo refused to vacate the earlier order retraining the Federal Government from tampering with the states’ funds in the Federation Account.

Rather, the judge adjourned the matter till last Monday to take the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.

At the resumed hearing, Maimuna Lami-Shiru, counsel to the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th defendants, namely President Muhammadu Buhari; Attorney general of the Federal, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Finance and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, and the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Patience Oniha, respectively), urged the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ application for lacking in merit.

Lami-Shiru argued that the applications lacked merit to be brought forward in that the plaintiffs had no sufficient legal backing to pursue the case.

She argued further that the plaintiffs concealed facts about some previous judgments of the court which ordered them to make payment from source; the local and state government accounts.

Urging the court to discountenance the application and set aside its earlier order, the counsel also urged the court to dismiss the plaintiffs’ application. (NAN)

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