The Muhammadu Buhari government has said the 36 governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) who dragged the Nigerian government to court over Paris Club clash have embarked on a lost course.
The Buhari government was reacting to the suit filed by state governments seeking to stop deductions from their monthly allocations to fund debts associated with Paris Club refunds.
According to The Nation, the federal government said the states brought the trouble on themselves by failing to pay the consultants they engaged, thereby forcing the consultants to obtain court judgments against them and the Nigerian government.
The Buhari government’s stance was shared by 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), as the second, third, fourth and sixth defendants in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/2021 filed by the states to challenge the propriety of the deductions.
In the court documents filed on their behalf by a team of lawyers, led by Mrs. Maimuna Shiru, acting Director, Civil Litigation, Federal Ministry of Justice, they argued that, having admitted engaging the consultants, the states could not now oppose the Nigerian government’s decisions to effect the deductions to settle what the states and local government areas owe the same consultants.
The President, who is sued as the first defendant, and the other four, claimed that the suit was an attempt by the states to evade liability, having benefited from the services of the consultants.
“At the moment, there is no pending appeal or order for stay of execution against any of the judgments or garnishee orders absolute, either at the instance of the plaintiffs, the NGF, ALGON or any other entity.
“The 36 state governors, who have been operating under the aegis of the NGF in receiving payments under the Paris Club refunds, engaging consultants, executing terms of settlement leading to consent judgments, have now turned around to sue via their state Attorneys-General in order to circumvent existing legal liabilities.
“All the learned silks (Senior Advocates of Nigeria) representing the plaintiffs in the instant suit have also represented the NGF in various litigations over the years on the same subject matter, which shows that they and the plaintiffs were fully aware of the issues at stake and did not, at any time before now, seek to differentiate between the plaintiffs and the NGF in respect of the transactions,” the Buhari government said.
The President and others referred to one of such cases, marked: CA/A/521/2016 in which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) attempted, but failed, at the Court of Appeal, to set aside a garnishee order absolute got against it by Linas International and 250 others in relation to one of the judgments.
It said, “It is instructive to note that Ahmed Raji (SAN), who is now one of the senior counsels to the plaintiffs, represented the garnishee (CBN) in the above garnishee proceedings before this honourable court and even presently before the Supreme Court.”
The President and others, while querying the competence of the suit, insisted on proceeding with the planned deductions, arguing that the federal government’s decision was in compliance existing judgments and orders of courts.
On December 21, the planned hearing of substantive case along with the objections raised by the defendants became impossible in view of the non-conclusion of the necessary filings by parties, a development that made Justice Inyang Ekwo to reschedule hearing for February 15.