BusinessRule of LawTop Stories

Court blocks Oyo’s accounts over multibillion-naira debt

The Abuja High Court has issued an order attaching funds standing to the credit of Governnor Seyi Makinde’s government and state agencies in four banks.

Justice A.O. Ebong issued the order while ruling on a motion ex parte for garnishee order nisi filed by the ex-chairmen and councillors led by Bashorun Majeed, Bosun Ajuwon and Idris Okusesi.

The banks are First Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Wema Bank and Zenith Bank.

Mr Ebong ordered the banks to show cause why the order nisi 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) 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 chairmen and councillors sacked on May 29, 2019 before the end of their tenure by Mr Makinde.

The garnishee proceeding, initiated for the chairmen and councillors by their lawyer, Musibau Adetunbi, is in execution of a judgment they got against the governor and six others from the Supreme Court on May 7, 2021.

“A garnishee order nisi is hereby granted to attach the judgment debtors’ accounts with garnishees numbers one to four 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,” said the court ruling.

It added, “The garnishees (first to fourth) 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 debtor with Mr Makinde are Oyo attorney general, the commissioner for local government and chieftaincy affairs, the accountant general, the house of assembly, the speaker and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).

The ex-chairmen and councillors were elected in an election conducted by OYSIEC on March 12, 2018 for a three-year term.

Upon learning that Mr Makinde, who took office on May 29, 2019 had planned to sack them, the chairmen and councillors filed a suit at the state’s high court 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 May 6, 2019 the 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 chairmen and councillors on May 29, 2019 and subsequently appealed the judgment.

The Court of Appeal, in its judgment on July 15, 2020 set aside the judgment of the high court. The chairmen and councillors appealed the decision at the Supreme Court.

In its judgment on May 7, 2021 a five-member panel of the apex court, presided over by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, allowed the appeal marked SC/CV/556/2020 and set aside the decision of the appelate court.

The apex court, which awarded a cost of N20 million against Mr Makinde, ordered that the ex-chairmen and councillors, who were unlawfully sacked by the governor, be paid their salaries and allowances from May 29, 2019 to May 11, 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.

“I will not conclude this appeal without commenting on the disturbing ugly face of impunity displayed by the governor of Oyo state (first 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,” said the judge.

He noted that, even before appealing the high court judgment, Mr Makinde on May 29, 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.”

He added, “Series of applications were filed by the judgment creditors, the present appellants, to restrain, particularly the first 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.”

Mr Eko stressed that “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,” pointing that “it is almost becoming universal phenomena that the democratically elected governors have constituted themselves into a specie most dangerous to democracy in this country.”


Comment here

I accept the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy