By Peter Duru – Makurdi
An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice K. N. Ogbonnaya has issued a garnishee order against the Benue state government funds in all the state accounts and those of its parastatals over a judgement debt of N1.148billion.
Affected by the order were 23 bank accounts being operated by the state government and its parastatals in seven commercial banks.
Briefing newsmen Thursday in Makurdi about the development, Commissioner for Information, Mrs Ngunan Addingi, and his counterpart in the Ministry of Justice, Micheal Gusa said the order had crippled all activities in the state.
The order was a sequel to an application brought before the court by Julianna Igweka and 95 others against the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board and the Attorney General of the state.
The applicants were said to have approached the court for a leave to enforce the judgment of the Benue State High Court in a suit number MHC/227/2007.
Mrs Addingi explained that the matter arose when in 2007 selected non-indigenous staff of the State Universal Basic Education Board were written and asked to return to their states and be absorbed into their respective state civil service.
She said “The affected persons took the state government to court and in 2008 judgement was given that the matter should be looked into and they be reabsorbed into the Benue state civil service.
“Unfortunately instead of them to wait and follow due process to be reabsorbed, they decided to go to court to ask that they be paid a certain amount of money.
“Some of these people actually went back to their states and took up appointments but are still fighting the Benue state government.
“And in 2012 Benue state government went back to court and got a judgement that ruled that they could not make monetary demands since the issue from the onset was not about monetary demands but to be reabsorbed back to service.
“One of their lawyers, Mr Ocha Ulegede, took the matter to a Nasarawa State High Court and another lawyer also approached an Abuja High Court on this same matter.
“November this year they got a judgement to garnish the accounts of the state. The government wrote back that they could not garnish the accounts because they were out of jurisdiction.
“An order was again issued yesterday garnishing all the state and local government bank accounts.
“This is saddening since the government is supposed to be paying salaries ahead of the Yuletide festivities and the banks do not know these details because as long as they bring a court order to them they garnish them.
“It is unfortunate because tomorrow is Christmas and Monday is a public holiday, it is quite sad,” she added.
The Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General, Mr Gusa on his part said the state government had commenced the process of appealing the order in order to set it aside.