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$418m debt: Court dismisses governors’ suit against FG

  A federal high court in Abuja has dismissed a suit seeking to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari and others from effecting the planned de...

 


A federal high court in Abuja has dismissed a suit seeking to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari and others from effecting the planned deduction of $418 million from states’ funds to settle the Paris Club Fund debt.

 

Inyang Ekwo, the judge, while delivering judgment on Friday, held that the plaintiffs who are the attorneys-general lacked the locus standi to institute the suit.

 

The plaintiffs in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/202 sought to restrain the president and others from effecting the planned deduction of $418 million from states’ funds to settle the debt owed consultants engaged by states and LGs.

 

The controversial payment of $418 million to consultants over the Paris Club refund had become a contentious issue between the three tiers of government.

 

Consultants had claimed the amount as a percentage for the payment of services rendered to the states and local government councils.

The federal government maintained that its decision to deduct the fund to settle some consultants was based on a previous verdict of the court.

 

It argued that since the court had earlier decided on the matter, proceeding with the suit would amount to a high court sitting on appeal over its own judgment.

 

The court, had on November 5, restrained the federal government from deducting $418 million from states’ accounts to pay the disputed debt.

But delivering judgment, Ekwo held that the state attorneys-general lack the legal standing to institute the lawsuit with the consent of their respective governors.

 

 “There was no express evidence to show that the state governors consented to the file of the suit,” he said.

 

“The office of the attorney-general of a state was created under Section 195 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended.

 

“The AG of a state is appointed by a governor, which makes the AG an appointee, who is under the control of a governor.

 

“From the court’s findings, the plaintiff has no locus standi to file the suit, therefore there was no cause of action.

 

 “The state attorneys-general cannot on their own bring this suit given the provisions of Section 211 of the 199 Constitution.

 

“This suit does not fall within the class of suits that can be initiated by the state attorneys-general without the consent of the governors.”

 

The judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim that the contract was not entered by the states because the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) are not constitutionally recognised bodies.

 

Ekwo said both the NGF and ALGON are duly registered bodies that could sue or be sued.

 

The judge also held that the suit amounts to an abuse of court process.

 

“On the whole, I do not see any merit in the case and I accordingly dismiss it as lacking in merit,” the court held.

 

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