Court blocks Oyo govt’s accounts in four banks over N3.4 billion debt
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, has issued an order attaching funds standing to the credit of the Oyo State Government and its agencies in four banks.
Justice A. O. Ebong issued the order while ruling on a motion ex-parte for garnishee order filed by the ex-chairpersons and councillors led by Bashorun Majeed, Bosun Ajuwon and Idris Okusesi.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the affected banks are First Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Wema Bank and Zenith Bank.
Justice Ebong ordered the banks to show cause why the order should not be made absolute.
The ruling on the motion marked: FCT/HC/BW/M/238/2023, was delivered by the judge on March 2 and a certified true copy (CTC) was sighted on Sunday in Abuja.
The funds, according to court filings, are to settle the outstanding balance of N3,374,889,425.60 from the judgment debt owed some former local government chairpersons and councillors sacked on 29 May 29 2019 before the end of their tenure by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
The garnishee proceeding, initiated for the chairpersons and councillors by their lawyer, Musibau Adetunbi, is in the execution of a judgment they got against the governor and six others from the Supreme Court on 7 May 2021.
The ruling reads: “A garnishee order nisi is hereby granted to attach the judgment debtors’ accounts with garnishees Nos. 1 to 4 in the motion ex-parte, for the purpose of settling the judgment debt outstanding in the sum of N3,374,889,425.60 as awarded by the Supreme Court and conceded by the judgment debtors in Exhibit 11 attached to the applicant’s motion.
“The garnishees (1st to 4th) shall file affidavits and attend court on the next adjourned date to show cause why the order nisi should not be made absolute.
“A copy of this order nisi shall be served on the judgment debtors as required by law. This matter is hereby adjourned to the 4/4/2023 for continuation.”
It was gathered that the judgment creditors have since effected service of copies of the order on the judgment debtors as ordered by the court.
Listed as judgment debtors with the Oyo State Governor is the state’s Attorney General, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, the Accountant General, the House of Assembly, it’s Speaker and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).
The ex-chairpersons and councillors were elected in the election conducted by OYSIEC on 12 March 2018 for a three-year term.
Upon learning that Mr Makinde, who took office on 29 May 2019 had planned to sack them, they sued before the High Court of Oyo State to challenge the constitutionality of Sections 11 and 12 of the Oyo State Local Government Law 2001, which empowered the governor and the House of Assembly to dissolve LG executives in the state.
In its judgment on 6 May 2019, the Oyo State High Court declared Sections 11 and 12 of the state’s Local Government Law 2001 as unconstitutional, on the grounds that it violated Section 7(1) of the Constitution.
Despite the subsistence of the judgment, Mr Makinde sacked the chairpersons and councillors on 29 May 2019 and subsequently appealed the judgment.
The Court of Appeal, in its judgment on 15 July 2020 set aside the judgment of the High Court, a decision the affected officials appealed at the Supreme Court.
In its judgment on 7 May 2021, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, allowed the appeal marked: SC/CV/556/2020 and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal.
The court, which awarded a cost of N20 million against Mr Makinde, ordered that the ex-chairpersons and councillors, who were unlawfully sacked by the governor, be paid their salaries and allowances from 29 May 2019 to 11 May 2021 when their tenure ought to have expired.
In the lead judgment by Justice Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court came down hard on Mr Makinde, who it found, acted arbitrarily and undemocratic.
Justice Eko said: “I will not conclude this appeal without commenting on the disturbing ugly face of impunity displayed by the Governor of Oyo State (1st respondent herein) on 29th May, 2019, tantamounting to executive lawlessness, outrightly and vehemently condemned by this court in the case of the Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu.”
He noted that, even before appealing the High Court judgment, Mr Makinde on 29 May 2019 “issued imperial directives dissolving all democratically elected local Government Councils in Oyo State in spite of the subsisting judgment of Oyo State High Court in the suit No. 1/347/2017.
“Series of applications were filed by the judgment creditors, the present appellants, to restrain, particularly the 1st respondent (the Governor), from embarking on the self-help designed to contemptuously frustrate the judgment of the High Court.
“He was not dissuaded. He proceeded in his imperial omnipotency to continue in his untrammelled, albeit invidious contemptuous, disregard of subsisting judgment of the High Court.
“It is unthinkable that a democratically elected governor would embark on these unwholesome undemocratic tendencies. These tendencies no doubt endanger democracy and the rule of law.
“It is almost becoming universal phenomena that the democratically elected Governors have constituted themselves into a specie most dangerous to democracy in this country.
“They disdainfully disregard and disrupt democratically elected Local Government Councils and appoint their lackeys as caretaker committees to run affairs of Local Governments,” Justice Eko said.