A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a suit by the 36 states seeking to stop deductions of $418 million Paris Club refund debt.
Justice Inyang Ekwo Friday held that the suit lacked merit because the attorneys general of the 36 states do not have the locus standi to bring the action.
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Those joined as defendants in the suit include President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria, Debt Management Office, Federation Accounts Committee (FAAC), and 36 others.
The judge also held that the suit was an abuse of court processes since other courts have determined similar issues challenging the federal government’s move to deduct the $418m to settle consultants and contractors who facilitated the Paris Club refund.
The attorneys general had argued through their counsel, Jibrin Okutepa (SAN), that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) does not have the power to enter into an agreement that would be binding on state governments, especially the judgment debt.
But the judge held that the attorneys could not bring the action without the consent of the governors, adding that they are neither members of the NGF nor Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON).
The judge said the law only frowns at arbitrary deductions from accounts of states.
“The provision of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution does not prohibit the deductions from the accounts of the state in which there is an agreement between the states and the federal government,” he said.
Meanwhile, Okutepa has indicated an intention to appeal the judgment of the high court.