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Court dismisses 36 states’ suit against $418M Paris Club debt deduction

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a suit filed by the Attorneys General of the 36 states of the federation against the Federal Government over plans to deduct from states’ funds to settle debts owed consultants engaged by the states and local councils in relation to the Paris Club refunds.

Justice Ekwo held in a 51-page judgment that the 36 states Attorneys General (AGs) lacked the locus standi (legal right) to file the legal action against the Federal Government.

The judge, who maintained that the plaintiffs failed to prove to the court that they had the legal right to institute the action, also held that they (plaintiffs) had no constitutional powers to challenge the decisions of their state governors being their appointees.

According to Justice Ekwo, states Attorneys General could not challenge the constitutional powers of their state governors.

“On the whole, I hold that the plaintiffs have no locus standi to institute the legal action against the governors of their states,” the Judge held.

The court further held that the case of the AGs of the 36 states of the federation constituted an abuse of court processes as the court could not seize the judgment, which authorised deduction of the judgment debt.

“In view of the above, I hereby make an order dismissing the suit of the plaintiffs for lacking locus standi,” Justice Ekwo.

The judge agreed with the defendants that there was an agreement for the deduction of $480 million from the federal allocation to the state governments.

He said the plaintiffs, who were neither members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) nor Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), could not challenge the action of the two bodies.

He said since the plaintiffs were complaining of the action of the state governors, they ought to have joined the NGF as respondents in the suit.

“On the whole, I do not see merit in this case and I make an order dismissing it for lacking in merit,” Justice Ekwo ruled.

Counsel representing the states AGs, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), in his reaction, commended the judge for the timely delivery of the judgment in spite of the volume of the processes filed.

“We appreciate the hard work put into the matter. We commend your Lordship,” Okutepa said.

Counsel to the respondents, comprising President Buhari and 43 others, also commended the industry of the Judge in delivering the judgment.

The plaintiffs had, in their suit, want the court 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 local governments.

Sunday Ameh (SAN) representing the plaintiffs at the November proceeding, while adopting his final submission, argued that the defendants misconstrued the kernel of his clients’ suit and 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,” he said.

Ameh stated that his clients were not averse to the issuance of promissory notes to the consultants (also sued as defendants) by the Federal Government but became uncomfortable when it (FG) issued a notice to commence deduction from the states’ accounts


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