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Yar’Adua’s absence threatens N4.4 trn Federation Account suit

ABUJA—THE Supreme Court, yesterday, heard that the inability of the Council of State to ratify the draft agreement between the Federal Government and 27 states of the Federation is threatening the out-of-court settlement for the payment of monies totalling about N4.4 trillion deducted by the Federal Government from the Federation Account between 2004 and 2007.

The revelation came after the 27 state governments which are plaintiffs in the case unanimously held that President Yar’Adua’s government had no respect for agreements and would want the court to fix a date for the hearing of their case on its merit.

President Yar’Adua who is vested with the constitutional right to preside over the meeting of the Council of State has been sick for about 60 days now receiving treatment offshore.

The Council is made up of the sitting President (President Umaru Yar’Adua) who shall be the Chairman, the Vice President who shall be the Deputy Chairman, former Presidents of the Federation and all former Heads of Government of the Federation, all former Chief Justices of Nigeria, the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, all the Governors of States of the Federation and the Attorney-General of the Federation.

It is not clear, however, whether the verdict of Justice Dan Abutu, last week, would cover Jonathan Goodluck’s chairing of such meeting to take final decision on the issue.

But the 1999 constitution never envisaged that the Council of State would sit without a sitting President in attendance particularly when Jonathan still remains the Vice President.

The Federal Government, however, told the apex court that it was willing to endorse the draft agreement but that the Council of State statutorily headed by President Yar’Adua was yet to meet to take final decision on the issue.

The position canvassed by the Federal Government made the Supreme Court to give the Federal Government a fresh 60 days of grace to endorse the out of court agreement it reached with the states, warning that it would have no option at the next adjourned date to open hearing in the case if nothing was done about it.

The Federal Government had earlier admitted before the Supreme Court, that its operation of the Federation Account between 2004 and 2007 was largely illegal, being not in conformity with provisions of the 1999 constitution.

The Federal Government, had, for instance, diverted certain revenues, in excess of N4trillion, which ought to accrue to the Federation Account for sharing amongst the three tiers of government during the period.

The government had labelled such monies as independent revenues of the Federal Government which a total 27 states of the Federation, kicked against.

Some of the revenues allegedly diverted by the Federal Government included proceeds from signature bonus, dividends from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited, NLNG, sale of government properties, privatization proceeds, education tax proceeds, dividends and other internally generated revenues (IGR) of Federal ministries, parastatals and agencies.

Besides, the government, had, since 2004, also diverted monies which ought to accrue to the Federation Account to maintain excess crude savings account and had unilaterally used the account to fund federal projects.


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