By Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
The Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has urged the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate what it described as a fraudulent judgement obtained by the 774 local government areas against the federal Government of Nigeria to pay them a sum of $3.2 billion and the diversion of $1.6billion.
The coalition’s national chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, said the petition was a follow-up to a report in June last year, titled “Controversy rages over $3.2 billion judgment against FG”, for the anti-graft agency to investigate the activities of a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN); former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and lawyer, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) in the alleged fraud.
Suraju said its private investigation indicated that serious economic and financial crimes were committed by the public officers and private individuals who facilitated the procurement of the fraudulent judgment.
The petition read: “In Suit No FHC/ABJ/129/2013 filed on June 11, 2013 at the Federal High Court, Abuja some local governments and Linas International Limited sued the Attorney-General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General of the Federation over the illegal deductions made by the federal government from the statutory allocations of the 774 local government councils in the Federation Account for London Club Debt buy back in 1992 and London Club Debit exit in 2006.
“In the originating summons, the plaintiffs claimed the sum of $3.2 billion payable to them from the Federation Account. The court processes were served on the defendants. In spite of the serious claims of the plaintiffs the defendants did not file any defence or brief any lawyer to defend the federal government.”
The anti-graft CSO noted that the suit challenged the decision of the federal government taken in 1992 but the action was based on the 1999 Constitution which came into force in May 1999.
The petition further stated: “Besides, the case was filed to challenge the decision taken by the federal government 21 years earlier. With respect to the payment of Paris Club debt in 2006 the action took place seven years earlier.
Yet the trial judge Justice Adeniyi Ademola, gave judgment to the plaintiffs contrary to the Public Officers Protection Act which has barred the institution from any action against public officers after three months.
“In a judgement delivered on December 3, 2013 , Justice Ademola ordered the federal government to pay the sum of N3, 188, 079,505.96 to the plaintiffs.
“The defendants did not appeal against the judgment and did not draw the attention of the Federal Executive Council to the judgment sum. The application for the fiat of the Attorney-General to authorise the payment of the judgment debt was granted by Adoke, while Okonjo-Iweala authorised the payment of the judgment sum.”
CSNAC, while noting that the Debt Management Office (DMO) was curious about judgement and in a letter to the Office of Accountant General of the Federation dated July 12, 2012 and with reference no: DMO/DRS/01/057/11/430, opposed the court judgment, advising the Office of Accountant General against payment of the claims by Linas International Limited.
“It reminded the AGF of the legal error in challenging an action in 1992 under a constitution that was promulgated in 1999. It also stated that repayment done in 1995 was under a unitary military government where all decisions affecting state and local government were taken at federal level.
But in a dramatic turn of event, “the office of Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, via a letter with reference no: HAGF/CJD/2014/VOL. II/357 and dated March 24, 2015, conveyed his consent, pursuant to section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Act for the judgment payment from government accounts. It was on the basis of the fraudulent consent that the sum of $1.6 billion was paid and shared by the criminal suspects,” the coalition noted .