$418m Paris Club debt: Court refuses to vacate order stopping FG from deducting state govts’ monies
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday, refused to vacate its order restraining the Federal Government from deducting monies accruing to the 36 states from federation account to settle 418 million dollars judgment debt in relation to Paris Club Refund.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who declined to grant the plea by counsel to the defendants in the suit, adjourned the matter until Dec. 13.
Justice Ekwo held that since the order was made based on the plaintiffs’ motion on notice filed before the court, all pending applications would be taken on the next adjourned date.
The judge had, on Nov. 5, made the order after counsel to the 36 state governments (plaintiffs), Jibrin Okutekpa, SAN, moved an ex-parte motion, seeking for an order of interim injunction, restraining the Federal Government from deducting any money accruing or due to all or any of the 36 states of the federation.
The court had also ruled that the restraining order would subsist pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The 36 states Attorneys-General are the plaintiffs, some of the defendants listed in the suit include the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Accountant General of the Federation and Ministry of Finance.
Others are Central Bank of Nigeria, Debt Management Office, Federation Account Allocation Committee, Incorporated Trustees of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), among others.
According to the motion dated and filed Oct. 27, 43 defendants are sued in the matter.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to the plaintiffs, Okutekpa told the court that the matter was slated for hear.
He said he had two motions which he intended to move.
He told the court that though most of the defendants had responded by serving on them various applications, the 9th defendant (Dr Chris Asoluka, who does business under the name and style of NIPAL Consulting Network) had refused to receive their court processes.
“We have a motion ex-parte to serve the 9 defendant an originating process. The process dated Dec. 6 was filed on Dec 6 and it is praying for an order of substituted service on the 9th defendant,” he said.
The judge then granted prayer one of the motion and ordered that the service be made on the 9th defendant within three days through pasting of the notice on his address.
The senior lawyer told the court that the second motion was an application praying the court for an extension of time to file and serve their counter affidavit and all other processes in response to the defendants’ applications.
Ekwo also granted prayer one of the motion and granted prayer two in part subject to the service of the motion on the two counsel who appeared for 15th, 16th, 10th and 11th defendants.
The two counsel had opposed the motion on the ground that they had not been served with the copy.
Okutekpa then asked for a date for hearing.
However, Oyin Koleoso who appeared for the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th defendants (President of Nigeria, AGF, Ministry of Finance Incorporated and Debt Management Office), informed the court that a motion asking the court to vacate the earlier order made had been filed.
Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who appeared for the 14th defendant (Dr Ted Iseghohi-Edwards), also urged the court to set aside the order.
He argued that he made the plea based on the Supreme Court and Appeal Court decisions under which the judge took the application.
Chief Olusola Oke, SAN, who is lawyer to 12th and 13th defendants (Riok Nigeria Ltd and Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu), also supported Olanipekun’s submission.
Oke, who told the court that his clients were affected by the order, urged the court to take their application seeking for the order to be vacated.
Orji Orizu, who appeared for himself in the suit as 18th defendant, backed Oke’s statement.
He argued that since an ex-parte motion lasts within 14 days, the lawyer prayed the court to discharge the order.
“That is what we are here for. A motion ex-parte is something done without the presence of the other parties, and it Is the first thing the court ought to do before adjournment,” he added.
Idumodin Ogumu, who represented 15th and 16th defendants ( Panic Alert Security Services Systems Ltd and Dr George Uboh), said he aligned himself with submissions of other counsel.
He argued that based on the rule of the court, the order granted by the court was deemed to have elapsed and no longer had effect.
However, counsel to the plaintiffs, Okutekpa, disagreed with the defence submission.
He referred the court to the order which its made.
The senior lawyer argued that it was an order of interim injunction restraining the Federal Government, acting through its agencies also joined in the suit, from deducting the plaintiffs’ monies pending the determination of the motion on notice.
He said the order was also made in compliance with the rule of the court.
“Your Lordship was aware of the rule when you were making the order.
“What I am saying now is that all we are doing now is a nullity because I am yet to serve the 9th defendant.
“This is not an application that your lordship should hurriedly take. Let other defendants be here so that it will not be taken piecemeal,” he enjoined.
After taking all the arguments, Justice Ekwo noted that the restraining order was made subject to the motion on notice filed by the plaintiffs.