By Sadiq Umar – A federal high court sitting in Abuja has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to pay the sum of $3.2billion wrongfully deducted from the accounts of the 774 Local Government Councils in the country.
The court ordered the immediate payment of “$3.1billion or Naira equivalent” back to the Local Councils’ coffer.
Presiding judge, Justice AFA Ademola who delivered a ruling on Monday told the CBN after listening to the arguments of both sides, to go ahead to enforce the earlier judgement which directed a refund to the council.
Lead Counsel to the Council, Mr. Joe Okay Agi (SAN) had prayed the court to garnishee the sum of $3.1billion in the hand of CBN and be paid to the Councils.
Counsel to CBN, Ahmed Raji (SAN) told the court that the Bank is in custody of over $26billion belonging to the Federal Government.
The Judge dismissed earlier reports that payments have been made, saying there was no such judgement directing payment into any account other than the Local Government Councils. I have just delivered judgement today, there was no such order, Justice Ademola added.
The order was in enforcement of earlier judgement of December 10, 2013 in which the court faulted the deduction from Councils account by the federal government to service loans owed to the London Club and Paris Club.
The plaintiffs had also secured a federal government fiat to execute the judgement since similar refunds were made to some states.
It would be recalled that judgment was given in favour of the Councils in the suit ( No FHC/ABJ/129/2013), filed on 11 June 2013, at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the suit, Aba North Local Government, some other local councils (applicants) and Linas International Limited (creditor) sued the Attorney-General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General of the Federation over the illegal deductions, totaling $3.2billion, made by the Federal Government from the statutory allocations due to the councils in respect of the 1992 London Club Debt buy-back and the 2006 London Club Debit exit championed by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.
The plaintiffs were challenging a decision taken by the Federal Government in 1992, when the action was based on the 1999 Constitution, which did not become operational until seven years after the decision. The suit also challenged the fact that the decision of the Federal Government was taken 21 years earlier.