Barristers & Solicitors
Paris Club refunds: Court fixes judgment for March 25

A Federal High Court in Abuja has scheduled judgment for March 25 in a suit by the 36 State Governments against the plan by the Federal Government to deduct from States’ funds to settle debts owed consultants engaged by the states and Local Governments in relation to the Paris Club refunds.

Justice Inyang Ekwo chose the date on Tuesday after lawyers to parties in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/2021adopted their 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 enforcing violates sections 120 and 162 of the Constitution,” he said.

Defendants’ lawyers, including Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Maimuna Lami Shiru (ting 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 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 by the Fed Govt 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 by the Fed Government were charged on its properties and not those of the states.

Culled from The Nation