Court sets hearing date for pending applications from 36 governors
Abuja’s Federal High Court on Monday set December 21 to hear all pending petitions in a lawsuit brought by the 36 state governors over intention to deduct monies due to them from the federation’s account to settle a judgment debt of $ 418 million relating to Paris Club reimbursement.
Judge Inyang Ekwo set the date after taking the arguments for and against the plaintiffs’ request for interlocutory injunction from counsel for the parties to the trial.
Ekwo J., who declined to answer prayers on the motion on notice of interlocutory injunction by the plaintiffs on the grounds that the jurisdiction of the tribunal had been challenged by the defendants, ordered that the preliminary objections and the substantive issue be taken on the next adjourned date.
“In the absence of jurisdiction, the court will act in vain, regardless of the quality of the proceedings.
“The product of such a procedure, in other words, is a nullity.
“I am of the opinion that the jurisdiction of this court having been challenged by the preliminary objections for the reasons which I set out in this decision, it will be inappropriate and even inappropriate to examine the motion on a notice of interlocutory injunction or ‘grant the prayers of the complainants / applicants.
“I am also of the opinion that when the jurisdiction of this tribunal was contested by the defendants, the request for interlocutory formal notice was overtaken by the event and lost its priority in the proceedings.
“As it stands, the prayers on the motion on notice cannot be answered. I therefore give an order refusing the prayers, ”he said.
The judge adjourned the case until December 21 to hear the defendants’ preliminary objections and the merits.
All 36 state attorneys general (plaintiffs) had prosecuted the defendants listed in the lawsuit, including the Federation Attorney General (AGF), the Federation Accountant General and the Ministry of Finance.
The others are the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Debt Management Office (DMO), the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), the incorporated trustees of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria ( ALGON), among others.
According to the motion dated and filed on October 27, 43 defendants are prosecuted in this case.
NAN also reports that the court on November 5 prevented the federal government from deducting money from the federation’s account to settle the judgment debt relating to the Paris Club reimbursement.
The ruling followed an ex parte motion by counsel for the 36 state governments (complainants), Jibrin Okutekpa, SAN, seeking an interim injunction order, prohibiting the federal government from deducting any sum accrued or owed to any or part of the 36 states of the federation.
The court also ruled that the restraining order would stand pending a decision on the merits.
On December 7, when the case arose, Justice Ekwo refused to overturn the previous order preventing the federal government from tampering with state funds.
Instead, the judge adjourned the case until today to take the motion for a notice of interlocutory injunction.
When the hearing resumed, Maimuna Lami-Shiru, counsel for the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th defendants (respectively President, AGF, Ministry of Finance and DMO), urged the court to reject the plaintiffs’ request for failure to foundation.
She argued that the claim was unfounded as the complainants lacked sufficient legal basis to pursue this path.
Ms. Lami-Shiru further argued that the plaintiffs had concealed facts about certain earlier judgments of the court which ordered them to make payment at source; the accounts of local and state authorities.
She urged the court to dismiss the request and set aside her earlier order.
Other defense lawyers have also argued along the same lines, urging the court to to reject the request of the complainants.
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