….fixes May 26 for hearing

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday, ordered the service of contempt charge on five Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, over an allegation that they acted in breach of the judgement that ordered the withdrawal of $418million from account of the 36 states of the federation, to settle debt in relation to the Paris Club Refund.

Justice Inyang Ekwo directed that the charge should be served on the senior lawyers, within seven days.

The order followed an ex-parte application that was brought before the court by two consultants, Dr. George Uboh and Panic Alert Security System (PASS), who were engaged by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), to facilitate the Paris Club Refund.

The affected SANs are; Mr. S.I. Ameh, Jubrin Okutepa, Dr. Garba Tetengi, Ahmed Raji, and Mr. Olumiyiwa Akinboro.

It will be recalled that the court had in a judgement it delivered on March 25, granted the Federal Government the nod to deduct $418million from account of the 36 states to payoff the consultants.

The court dismissed a suit that Attorneys-General of all the states filed to stop the withdrawal.

The AGs had in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1313/2021, contended that such withdrawal would cripple the states financially.

They told the court that after the said contract with the consultants were carefully scrutinized, as well as a purported judgement debt the FG relied upon to apply for the withdrawal, it was found that the 36 states were not parties to the court action that resulted to the judgment debt.

However, the court, held that AGs, being appointees of state governors, lacked the locus standi to institute the suit.

It observed that both the NGF and ALGON, are duly registered bodies that could sue or be sued, saying it was both bodies that could file the suit and not the state AGs.

Meanwhile, though AGs of the 36 states had since gone to the Court of Appeal over the matter, they also reapproached the high court for an injunction to halt the execution of the judgement, pending the determination of the appeal.

At the resumed proceedings in the matter on Wednesday, counsel to the states, Mr. Ameh, SAN, told the court that the said application for injunction had been overtaken by events since the appellate court was already seized with facts of the case.

He told the court that the application was filed before the record of appeal was entered.

“The appeal having been entered, the Court of Appeal is now seized with everything relating to this matter.

“We have filed an affidavit of fact to notify this court that an appeal has been duly entered in respect of the judgement”, Ameh added.

On his part, counsel to the two consultants who were cited as 15th and 16th defendants in the matter, Mr. Emeka Okoro, applied and secured leave of the court to serve contempt charge on the five SANs that represented the state AGs, through substituted means.

In processes before the court, the consultants, told the Court that the five SANs had three days after the judgement was delivered on March 25, issued a caveat emptor, asking members of the public and all financial institutions in the country and abroad, to desist from giving value to Promissory Notes the FG already issued to them.

They alleged that the caveat emptor that was issued by the SANs violated the ruling of the court delivered on December 13, 2021, the Judgment of the court delivered on March 25, as well as earlier consent judgment of the same court delivered on April 8, 2019, all of which have neither been vacated, upturned on appeal or their execution successfully stayed by any Court in Nigeria.

READ ALSO:$418m Paris Club debt deductions: 36 govs take Buhari, Attorney-Gen, DMO, others to court

They alleged that the conduct of the SANs amounted to a grave violation of Section 287(3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, which imposed a peremptory duty on all authorities and persons to enforce the judgment of the Federal High Court of Nigeria throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

More so, they prayed the court to refer the five SANs to both the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee (LPPC) and the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee (LPDC) for appropriate sanctions.

The defendants/applicants specifically applied for an order, committing the five SANs to prison custody, for contempt of court.

Justice Ekwo directed the service of the contempt charge on the five SANs within the next seven days, even as he fixed May 26 to hear the case.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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