Governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday lost in their bid to hold down the Federal Government from deducting $418 million from their monthly allocations to settle their contractual obligations in the Paris Club refund.
In a ruling at the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Inyang Ekwo refused a motion for interlocutory injunctions filed by the 36 states, in which they had sought to further restrain the Fed Government from making deductions from the money standing to their credit in the Federation Account, pending the determination of the main suit they filed.
Justice Inyang, in refusing the motion, said he would rather hear the notice of preliminary objection filed by some of the defendants, challenging the court’s jurisdiction, along with the substantive suit.
He said since the court’s jurisdiction was being challenged, the best thing to do was to first determine whether or not the court has jurisdiction before taking any further steps.
The judge adjourned till December 21 for the hearing of the objection and the substantive suit.
The court had on November 5 this year, issued an ex-parte order stopping the Federal Government from proceeding with its planned deduction of the $418 million from the states’ accounts to settle consultants allegedly engaged by the states in the Paris Club refund processes.
The court had directed that the ex-parte order would subsist pending the hearing and determination of the plaintiffs’ motion on notice for interlocutory injunction, which was heard and refused yesterday.
Plaintiffs’ lawyer, Sunday Ameh (SAN) had, while arguing the motion, stated that his clients were not averse to federal Governor’s issuance of promissory notes to the consultants (also sued as defendants), but became uncomfortable when it (federal government) issued a notice to commence deduction from the states’ accounts.
Ameh argued that it was necessary that the federal government be restrained from making the deduction while the status of the alleged debt was still being disputed.
Some of the defendants, represented by different lawyers, including Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Maimuna Shiru (Acting Director, Civil Litigation, Federal Ministry of Justice) urged the court to dismiss the motion.
They contended that the motion was without merit, because the suit on which it was predicated was also unmeritorious.
The defence lawyers contended that the plaintiffs, by their suit, want the court to sit on appeal over the earlier judgments given in cases on the same issue by other judges of the court.
They argued that it amounted to blowing hot and cold at the same time when the same state governors, who at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) level conceded to the debt owed consultants, are now challenging it.
The plaintiffs are, in the substantive suit, contending among others, that they were not parties to the case which resulted in a judgment that ordered the federal government to deductions from the accounts to settle debt allegedly owed consultants by the states.