Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja bluntly refused on Tuesday to vacate a restraining order issued against the federal government stopping the bid to deduct $418m Paris Club Refund from bank accounts of the 36 states of the federation.
The judge held that the order shall subsist until the motion for interlocutory injunction filed by the states against the federal government is determined.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, drama ensued when the judge was about to adjourn the matter as some of the defendants made desperate efforts to argue thier motions praying the court to discharge the restraining order granted in favour of the states against the deduction of the money by the federal government.
Counsel to two of the defendants Chiefs Wole Olanipekun and Olusola oke, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria battled spiritedly through oral applications for the court to discharge the order.
They argued that by the practice direction of the court, the restraining order ought to last for 14 days and that it should be deemed as expired and no longer in existence.
However, counsel to the states Jibrin Okutepa SAN, read out the order in the open court and submitted that until the motion for interlocutory injunction is settled, the interim order shall be in force and bidding on all parties.
Justice Iyang however counseled parties in the matter to thread softly adding that the matter will be diligently determined.
The Judge has fixed December 13 for continuation of hearing in the legal battle instituted by 36 states against the federal government to challenge the bid to deduct a whopping sum of $418 million dollars from their bank accounts.
The sum is planned to be deducted by the federal government to pay contractors who worked for the state governments in the Paris club refund.
At Tuesday’s proceeding, Justice Ekwo permitted the Plaintiffs (36 states) to regularize thier processes that were filled out of time.
The court also granted permission for substituted service on some of the defendants who have allegedly refused to accept court processes/papers.
The motion for regularisation and for substituted service granted by the judge were argued by Mr Jibrin Okutepa SAN on behalf of the states.
The judge thereafter fixed December 13 for the court to attend to all pending applications and ordered that fresh hearing notice must be served on the parties.
In an interview with Judiciary Journalists, Mr Onyeka Nwokolo SAN who stood for Ned Woko and Linas International Ltd expressed disgust over the way and manner the Paris club refund was being politicized and used to blackmail some of the defendants.
According to him, the states legitimately on thier own volition, issued Power of Attorney to some of the defendants to pursue the Paris club refund on thier behalf, with a condition that 10 percent of the recovered money will be paid insisting that the Power of Attorney is binding on the parties.
Nwokolo urged the plaintiffs to be honorable in implementing the contractual terms rather than foot dragging.
The senior lawyer revealed that a subsisting judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction has ordered the payment of the money to the contractors after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC had thrice investigated and confirmed the authenticity of the contract.
Justice Ekwo had on November 5 stopped the federal government from going ahead to deduct the $418million dollars from the bank account of the 36 states governments
The Judge had issued a restraining order against the federal government following an exparte application argued by counsel to the 36 states Messrs Jibrin Otukepa and Ahmed Raji both Senior Advocates of Nigeria
While moving the application. Otukepa who led the legal team of the states had told the Judge that the states would be completely crippled if the federal government should go ahead to deduct the huge amount from the bank accounts of its clients.
The Senior lawyers had told the Judge that the federal government predicated the plan to deduct the $418million from the state account monthly to service a debt for contracts allegedly executed for the states.
However, Otukepa said that the 36 states Attorneys General have scrutinized the purported contract and judgment and found that the states were not parties to court action that resulted in the judgment debt.
He had further submitted that the purported contract claimed to have been executed for the states is not known to any of the 36 state governments and is therefore a phony contract.
The Senior lawyer further told the court that the federal government was the only party to the court case that brought about the judgment and therefore such judgment is not binding on the state government.
Defendants in the suit are the Attorney General of the Federation AGF, Finance Minister, Accountant General of the Federation and all banks in Nigeria among others.