Abuja Court fixes date for judgment in Governors’ $418m Paris Refunds suit against Buhari, others

Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday fixed March 25 for judgment in a suit by the 36 states governments against the plan by the Federal Government to deduct $418m from states’ funds to settle debts owed consultants engaged by the states and Local Governments in relation to the Paris Club refunds. The Judge chose the date on Tuesday after lawyers to parties in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/2021 adopted their final written addresses and made final submissions.

Abuja Court fixes date for judgment in Governors’ $418m Paris Refunds suit against Buhari, others
Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday fixed March 25 for judgment in a suit by the 36 states governments against the plan by the Federal Government to deduct $418m from states’ funds to settle debts owed consultants engaged by the states and Local Governments in relation to the Paris Club refunds. The Judge chose the date on Tuesday after lawyers to parties in the suit, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/2021 adopted their final written addresses and made final submissions. The plaintiffs are by the suit, seeking to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari and others from effecting the planned deduction from states’ funds to settle the debt owed consultants engaged by states and LGs. Lead plaintiffs’ lawyer, Sunday Ameh (SAN) in his final submission, argued that the defendants misconstrued the kernel of his clients’ suit. Ameh faulted the argument by the defendants that the suit was challenging existing judgments given by the court in favour of some of the consultants. “We are not challenging the judgments, we are saying the way the Federal Government and its agencies are going about enforcing the judgments violates sections 120 and 162 of the Constitution Ameh contended that it is the nation’s commonwealth that some individuals were attempting to oust from the Federation Accounts, stating that “if the Fed Govt is inclined to pay the debt, it should look for another way to do so and leave the funds belonging to the state governments and LGs alone.” He prayed the court to allow the case and grant his client’s prayers. Defendants’ lawyers, including Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Maimuna Lami Shiru (acting Director, Civil Litigation, Federal Ministry of Justice) and Olusola Oke (SAN) faulted the competence of the suit and urged the court to dismiss it. Olanipekun, who represented one of the consultants, Dr. Ted Iseghohi-Edwards (14th defendant), described the plaintiffs as meddlesome interlopers, noting that the state governments claimed to be fighting for the Local Governments, a distinct tier of government, without the consent of the third tier of government. He prayed the court to dismiss the suit for being time-wasting and constituting an abuse of the court process. Mrs. Shiru argued that not only was the suit statute barred but that the plaintiffs are also seeking the impossible by asking the court to sit on appeal over judgments earlier delivered by it and other courts of coordinate jurisdiction. “The plaintiffs have not appealed against the judgments of this court and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) that the contracts awarded to the consultants are valid,” she said. She further argued that the decision of the Federal Government to issue promissory notes to the consultant as a way of settling the debt owed them was legitimate, adding that the plaintiffs cannot distance themselves from the decision taken by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) in engaging some of the consultants. Mrs. Shiru represented the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria; the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Accountant General of the Federation (AGoF), the Ministry of Finance Incorporated and the Debt Management Office (DMO), sued as the first, second, third, fourth and sixth defendants in the suit, marked: Oke, who represented Riok Nigeria Limited and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu argued that the suit is without merit and should be dismissed. He noted the promissory notes issued by the Federal Government was charged on its properties and not those of the states. Oke stated that the judgment obtained by his clients was against the local governments and not the plaintiffs, adding that the LGs have admitted the contract awarded to its clients