Report queries AGF’s, others’ roles in $3.2b verdicts against Fed Govt

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A report submitted to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has raised doubt over the legitimacy of award of $3,188,079,505.96  in two judgments against the Federal Government by a Federal High Court in Abuja in favour of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), some firms and two lawyers.

Also listed as beneficiaries of the judgments are Linas International Limited, Phil-Tech Nigeria Limited, Riok Nigeria Limited, XI Nigeria Limited, Snecou Group of Companies Limited, Wells Procurement Services Limited, Systematic Engineering Limited, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu and Bello Olaitan Busayo.

The report, sighted by The Nation yesterday, is from an investigation commissioned by the NGF last year, into proceedings leading to the judgments, given in 2013, and upon which four garnishee orders were issued between February and April this year against the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

A garnishee order is an order for collecting a monetary judgment on behalf of a plaintiff from a defendant. The money can come directly from the defendant (the garnishee) or at a court’s discretion – from a third party.

The report has raised doubts about the conduct of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation, who were defendants in the case.

It revealed how the Attorney General of the Federation, the Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation allegedly failed to defend both suits, which sought to deprive the country huge sums of money, raising questions about the actual motive behind the suits.

The report also captured the presiding judge’s comment about the attitude of the AGF and others in conducting the cases.

Justice  Adeniyi Ademola noted, in one of the judgments, that the 3rd and 4th defendants (Finance Minister and Accountant General) “did not file any process in opposition to the plaintiffs’ case,” while the 1st and 2nd defendants (FGN and AGF) filed a counter affidavit.

The judge further noted that “apart from dumping the counter-affidavit with written address on the court, the 1st and 2nd defendants did not participate any further in the court’s proceedings in this matter”.

The investigation was conducted by an Abuja-based security expert and Chief Executive Officer of a private security firm, Panic Alert Security System (PASS), George Uboh.

Uboh urged the NGF and the Federal Government to thoroughly investigate the process leading to the judgments, the refusal of the AGF and the other defendants to appeal the judgments and subsequent garnishee orders made by the court.

He wondered why the court, without evidence of completion, ordered the payment of the money to the plaintiff in relation to some health services contracts, allegedly awarded to them by ALGON.

He urged them to urgently intervene in the on-going garnishee proceedings before Justice Ademola, which may lead to the freezing of all Federal Government’s accounts with the CBN, including the “Crude Oil Sales Account, Foreign and Local Loan Payment Account and Excess Crude Oil Account,” in respect of which garnishee order was made on February 20, this year.

ALGON and Linas had, in the suit challenged the alleged Federal Government’s unilateral withdrawal of funds from the Federation Account to fund the London Club debt buyback of 1992 and London Club debt exit payment of 2006.

They had argued that the Federal Government’s deployment of the funds for the payment of foreign debt without the consent of the other tiers of government contravened the provision of Section 162(1), (3), and (5) of the Constitution.

The plaintiffs urged the court to order the refund of $3,188,079,505.96 to them; order the defendants to pay 20 per cent of the money to Linas through its lawyers as consultancy fees;  and that the court should order the defendants to pay 15 per cent of all amount due to the Local Governments “for utilisation on security and health care delivery all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

Linas also filed a separate suit against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Minister of Finance and Accountant General of the Federation, ALGON and 180 local governments (who were part of the plaintiffs in the initial case).

The company claimed it was entitled to N1million per local government and another 20 per cent of the $3,188,079,505.96 being claimed by the plaintiffs in the case over the foreign debt deduction, as its consultancy fees.

Since the defendants did not defend the case, the court granted the plaintiffs’ prayers in both cases in the judgments given on December 3, 2013.

The defendants also failed to appeal, prompting the plaintiffs to begin garnishee proceedings against the Federal Government. So far, the court has granted four garnishee orders against the government.

The first two were granted on February 20, 2015 in relation to the judgment in a suit, in which the court directed the “CBN to attach all monies accruing to the Federal Government or any of its agencies in its custody to satisfy the judgment debt of $3,188,078,505.96 and another $637,615,901.19” – estimated as constituting Linas’ consultancy fees.

On March 27, 2015, the court granted a similar order, directing the CBN to attach funds meant for the Federal Government or any of its agencies, in its custody, to satisfy a judgment debt of $637,615,901.19. It ordered the CBN to show cause why the order should not be made absolute.

The fourth one was granted on April 1, this year, when upon an application by Linas and 235 others, Justice Ademola ordered the CBN to attach all monies accruing and belonging to the Federal Government or any of its agencies for the “purpose of satisfying the judgment debt of $3,188,078,505.96”.

He ordered the CBN to show cause why the garnishee nisi should not be made absolute. The garnishee proceedings being prosecuted by Linas’ lawyer Joe Agi (SAN) are yet to be concluded.

Further hearing has been adjourned till June 22.

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