By Emman Ovuakporie
ABUJA—A petition seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives to stop the freeze of Federal Government accounts in the United Kingdom and the United States has been laid before the House.
The petition by the law firm, Edwards and Partners, follows alleged illegal payment of N19 billion being alleged legal fees due to the firm from its efforts in facilitating the retrieval of illegal disbursements made from the accounts of the 774 local governments from the Federation Account.
$3.189 billion of Paris Club related illegal deductions was allegedly recovered by the firm in conjunction with other professional groups.
The firm, however, alleged that its fees amounting to N19 billion, being 10 per cent of the said amount, was redirected by the Federal Ministry of Finance to the Governors Forum, a development that prompted a legal action at the Federal High Court which the firm won.
In the petition dated February 27, 2017, signed by the Managing Partner, Ted Edwards, the lawyers stated:
“Our law firm was retained by the Board of Incorporated Trustees of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON BoT, to assist, manage and coordinate with other professionals in the recovery of approximately $3.189 billion of Paris Club related illegal deductions from amounts standing to the credit of the 774 local governments of Nigeria in the Federation Account by the Federal Government.
“Our brief was successfully concluded with judgment and Garnishee Order Absolute secured for ALGON representing the 774 local governments and the consultant for its fees in Suit number FHC/ABJ/CS//130/13 while we got our judgment and Garnishee Order for our legal fees in suit Number FCT/HC/CV/1545/2015.”
“In the judgment and Garnishee Order Absolute for our legal fees, the CBN and finance ministry were mandated by the court as follows:
“Plaintiff is entitled to be paid at source as a first line charge 100percent of any recovery or proceeds are paid to the Local Governments directly through their state governments, through any organ of government whether state or Federal or through any of their agents or “agencies.”
The lawyers further stressed in the petition that despite notifying the Ministry of Finance and CBN of the order of court both the ministry and the apex bank still went ahead to make several disbursements to state governments directly without the mandated first line deduction at source.
They also stated in the petition that “the minister of finance further directed the CBN to pay our legal fees to the Governors Forum, an entity unknown to us in the course of the entire transaction and her directive was dully affected by the CBN.
“We employed the services of a total of approximately 300 lawyers both local and foreign including about twenty Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, to assist us in this undertaking with the clear understanding that they shall all be paid from our 10percent share of the proceeds of the successful recovery of the Board of Incorporated Trustees of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON BOT, for and on behalf of the 774 Local Governments of Nigeria.
Conclusively, the petitioners argued that “in the light of the above, we were left with no choice but to explore freezing all known bank accounts belonging to the Federal Government of Nigeria and any of its agencies in the United States of America and the United Kingdom pending full payment of their fees as directed by courts.
A further probe into the matter by the Vanguard further revealed that the various parties had earlier in February met with the Office of the Attorney General to the Federation where the matter was adequately ironed out but not satisfactorily carried out.
In a letter dated February 27 and signed by Director, Civil Litigation, Dayo Apata confirmed such a meeting was held on January 13.
Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Public Petitions, Rep Uzoma Nkem-Abonta confirmed to Vanguard that such a petition was laid on Tuesday.