Attorneys-general of the 36 states of the federation have warned the federal government not to tamper with funds accruing to the states and the 774 local government councils under the guise of meeting up with the alleged $418 million London/Paris Club Loan refund-related judgment debts.
Speaking through their recently formed association, Body of Attorneys-General of the Federation, the commissioners of Justice insisted that the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which dismissed their objection to the payment, was now a subject of an appeal.
They further warned if the federal government proceeds to make any such deduction, it would be acting illegally and in contempt of their appeal pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The body of attorneys-general also maintained that they were not parties to any suit on the London/Paris Club refund, and as such were not liable to any person or entity in any judgment debt the federal government is relying on.
A letter dated April 4, 2022 and signed by the body’s interim chairman, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN) of Lagos State, interim secretary, Dr Abdulkarim Abubakar Kana of Nasarawa State as well as the attorneys-general of Rivers, Abia, Taraba, Benue and Zamfara States, for and on behalf of all the state attorneys-general is a response to a November 11, 2021 letter from the minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, advertising the commencement of the deduction for the liquidation of the alleged judgment debts.
The letter reads in part: “Their Excellencies have drawn our attention to your letter referenced above, which the various States of the Federation received at about the end of March 2022.
“The letter notifies the states of your intention to commence deduction from allocations due to the States from the Federation Account for the liquidation of London/Paris Club Loan refund-related judgment debts on behalf of the 36 States of the Federation and the 774 local government councils.
“Please note that the states of the federation were not parties to any contract or suits concerning the London/Paris Club refund, from which the said judgment debts arose.
“Consequently, the 36 States of the Federation are not liable to any person or entity in any judgment debt.”
The attorneys-general also stated that the deduction of the allocations due to the 36 states of the federation from the federation account to liquidate the London/Paris Club Loan refund-related judgment debts is the subject of an appeal filed by the 36 states at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.
They said, “The appeal challenges the Federal High Court (per Honourable Justice I.E. Ekwo) judgment delivered on 25th March 2022 in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/2021 between A.G Abia State v. President, Federal Republic of Nigeria & 42 Ors. Therefore, the issue is sub judice.”
They further noted that the states have also filed a motion on notice for an order of injunction pending the outcome of the appeal.
The letter added that the body’s legal representatives had published a public caveat in national dailies notifying the public of the pending appeal, which also advised concerned parties “to desist from dealing with the subject matter thereof pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal and the application for Injunction pending Appeal.”
It said given the above, “the law requires you to restrain from taking any step whatsoever that is capable of interfering with the rest of the suit, which is now a subject of an Appeal.
“Accordingly, Nigerian case law enjoins you to refrain from effecting any deduction whatsoever from the allocations due to the 36 states from the Federation Account for the liquidation of the London/Paris Club Loan refund-related judgment debts purportedly on behalf of the 36 States of the Federation and the 774 local government councils, pending the hearing and determination of the Appeal by the states of the federation.
“Doing otherwise in the face of the pending Appeal and Motion on Notice for Injunction pending Appeal shall be at your peril,” they added