Court Fixes Date For Judgement In Suit To Stop FG From Deducting State Allocations To Settle $418m Debt

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja would on March 25, pass judgement in the suit seeking to stop the Federal Government from deducting allocations to states to settle alleged Paris Club refund.

The Attorneys General of the 36 states of Nigeria, in their final executive summary on Tuesday, told the court that unless an order is made, the federal government will continue to see the funds in the federation account as a means of settling any form of debt particularly the $418 million associated with the Paris club refund.

The refund is said to be for fees paid as legal and consultancy services to stakeholders who played a role in the Paris Club refund case.

The court had on November 5, 2021, stopped the federal government from deducting monies due to the 36 states of the federation with a view to settling debts relating to the Paris Club refund, pending determination of the suit.

Among other reliefs, the AGs are praying for “AN ORDER of this Honourable Court mandating the 1st to 7th Defendants to refund any money purported to have been deducted from monies accruing or due to the 36 States of the Federation from the Federation Account for the liquidation of the purported judgment debts without the express consent of the States and the appropriation of the said monies by the Houses of Assembly.”

On Tuesday, Chief S. Ameh, SAN, representing the 36 states, referred Justice Inyang Ekwo to a verdict by his brother judge, A. Mohammed , stating that the federation account cannot under any guise be available for the federal government to use in settling any debt except sharing allocations between it, state and local governments.

He argued that the FG and its agencies should rather prove that it promotes good governance by looking for other ways to settle the debts.

“The standing of the AG of the 36 states emanates from their constitutional powers, it is our commonwealth that attempt is being made to pull out of the federation account,” he contended in a suit suing President Muhammadu Buhari, Central Bank of Nigeria, Debt Management Office, Attorney General of the Federation, Accountant General of the Federation, and several banks, individuals and companies.

Chief O. Olanipekun, SAN, who is counsel for the 14th defendant, urged the court to strike out or dismiss the suit in its entirety.

Other counsels, contended that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the state governors cannot appear on behalf of the local govenrnments.

On his part, Justice Ekwo decided to adjourn the matter for judgment.
“I make an order adjourning this matter for judgment on 25 march 2022,” he ruled.

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