$418m Paris Club Refund: Court to Hear Governors’ Suit against Payment to Consultants December 13

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•Refuses to vacate restraining order

Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday adjourned till December 13, for hearing in a motion seeking to temporarily halt the federal government from deducting funds in their bank accounts in payment of Paris Club Refund to consultants.

The adjournment was made after the court granted an exparte application by the governors to regularise their processes that were filled out of time.

The application was moved by Plaintiffs’ lawyer, Mr. Jibrin Okutekpa.

Justice Ekwo, then granted it as prayed and in addition ordered for substituted service on some of the defendants who have allegedly refused to accept court documents regarding the suit.

Meanwhile the court held that its earlier order restraining the federal government from going ahead with its planned deduction from the states’ account in respect of the said payment still subsists.

The court made the clarification after attempts to make the court vacate the restraining order failed.

Chief Woke Olanipekun who represented the 14th defendant had urged the court to vacate the November 5 order in line with the rules of the court.

His position was supported by some defendants, including, Olusola Oke.

They argued that by the practice direction of the court, the order of injunction ought to last for 14 days and that it should be deemed as expired and no longer in existence.

But Okutepa, argued to the contrary, stating that until the motion for interlocutory injunction was decided, the interim order shall be in force and binding on all parties.

In a short ruling, Justice Ekwo, advised parties in the matter to thread softly adding that the matter would be deligently determined.

He subsequently adjourned till December 13 to take all pending applications.

Speaking shortly after the court session, lawyer to the 10th and 11th defendants, Mr. Onyeka Nwokolo, expressed displeasure over the way and manner the Paris club refund was being politicised and used to blackmail some of the defendants.

He claimed that the states’ legitimately and on their own volition issued power of attorney to some of the defendants to pursue the Paris Club refund on their behalf, with a condition that 10 percent of the recovered money would be paid insisting that the powered 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 investigated and confirmed the authenticity of the contract.

The governors of the 36 states had rushed to court following President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval of the payment of the controversial $418 million to six creditors as judgment debts in their favour.

The beneficiaries included: Ned Nwoko – $142,028,941; Ted Iseghoghi Edwards -$159 million; Riok Nigeria Limited, Orji Nwafor Orizu, and Olaitan Bello – $142,028,941.95 and Panic Alert System Limited and George Uboh – $47,831,920.

Based on Buhari’s approval, the Federal Ministry of Finance was also said to have directed the Debt Management Office (DMO) to commence issuance of promissory notes to the creditors.

The governors accused the president of approving the payment without considering their call for a forensic audit into the claims of the creditors.