The immediate past Vice President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Monday Ubani, said on Thursday that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos never ordered former governors to refund pensions collected from their states to the Federal Government.
Ubani said what is clear from the landmark judgement delivered by the court on the suit filed by the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project (SERAP) is that the Attorney General of the Federation has been directed by the court through Order of Mandus to initiate court action challenging the state laws authorizing the disbursement of emoluments to ex-governors, more so when such former chief executive officers of the states are collecting salaries and allowances in their current positions in government.
He said the correct and plausible interpretation of that judgement is that not until the state laws are invalidated by the court in a fresh suit to be instituted by the AGF, it would be wrong to hold the view that ex-governors have been ordered to refund the emoluments they have so far collected from their states’ treasury as a result of the laws their states Houses of Assemblies have previously enacted.
Those laws, according to him, must first and foremost be invalidated by a court of law.
He said: “It is hoped that the Attorney General of the Federation will comply with the judgement of the court and institute the said action and let us see whether the laws can be invalidated by the court, after which the issue of refund will be resolved on whether such is possible and practicable.
“It promises to be an interesting case whenever the Attorney General of the Federation commences it. However, I am of the firm view that the most practical way to stop the payments to the ex-governors is to request the various States House of Assemblies where such laws have been enacted to annul such laws by following the recent example of Zamfara State House of Assembly. It is easier and less cumbersome that way.
“Whether monies already collected could be refunded is another kettle of fish. It will throw up arguments like whether monies collected when the laws was legitimate can be refunded. As I said earlier, it promises to be an exciting case when it is eventually commenced.”