- Some ex-chairmen and councilors in Oyo state have approached the court, seeking to enforce the payment of a judgment sum ordered by the Supreme Court.
- The judgment creditors sought to be paid the remainder of their emoluments for their remaining term in office.
- They obtained an order Nisi from an Abuja division of the Federal High court.
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory has granted an “Order Nisi” to garnishee accounts belonging to Oyo State Government domiciled in four commercial banks in Nigeria.
The order attaching funds standing to the credit of the Oyo state government and its agencies on March 2, was issued by Justice A.O Ebong while ruling on an ex-parte motion for a garnishee order nisi filed by some ex-chairmen and councilors in the state.
While a garnishee proceeding is instituted to enforce a judgment debt, An order Nisi, is an order that directs a garnishee( mostly banks) to appear in court on a specific date and show cause why an order should not be made upon it for the payment of a judgment debt from the account of a judgment debtor to a judgment creditor.
On March 12, 2018, the ex-Chairmen and Councillors were elected for a three-year term in an election conducted by the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission, where they learned that when governor Makinde assumes office in May 2019, they will be sacked.
They further approached the High Court of Oyo State to challenge the constitutionality of Sections 11 and 12 of the Oyo State Local Government Law 2001, which empowered the governor and the House of Assembly to dissolve LG executives in the state.
In addition, the Oyo State High Court on May 6, 2019, in its judgment declared Sections 11 and 12 of the state’s Local Government Law 2001 as unconstitutional, on the grounds that it violated Section 7(1) of the Constitution.
However, On May 29, 2019, Governor Seyi Makinde after assuming office, sacked them despite the judgment and proceeded to file an appeal at the court of appeal.
Again on July 15, 2020, the appellate court set aside the judgment of the lower court, which subsequently made the Chairmen and Councillors approach the Supreme Court and its decision on May 7, 2021, made the apex court set aside the decision of the court of appeal.
A five-member panel of justices led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun awarded a cost of N20 million against Makinde, as the apex court also ordered that the ex-Chairmen and Councillors be paid their salaries and allowances from May 29, 2019, to May 11, 2021, when their tenure ought to have expired.
In the lead judgment by Justice Ejembi Eko, he stated that democratically elected Governors have constituted themselves into species most dangerous to democracy in this country.
He said “They disdainfully disregard and disrupt democratically elected Local Government Councils and appoint their lackeys as caretaker committee’s to run affairs of Local Governments,”
“I will not conclude this appeal without commenting on the disturbing ugly face of impunity displayed by the Governor of Oyo State (1st respondent herein) on 29th May 2019, tantamounting to executive lawlessness, outrightly and vehemently condemned by this court in the case of the Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu.”
He revealed that Governor Makinde had already issued imperial directives dissolving all democratically elected local Government Councils in Oyo State in spite of the subsisting judgment of the Oyo State High Court.
Speaking further he said “Series of applications were filed by the judgment creditors, the present appellants, to restrain, particularly the 1st respondent (the Governor), from embarking on the self-help designed to contemptuously frustrate the judgment of the High Court.
“He was not dissuaded. He proceeded in his imperial omnipotence to continue in his untrammeled, albeit invidious contemptuous, disregard for the subsisting judgment of the High Court.
“It is unthinkable that a democratically elected government would embark on these unwholesome undemocratic tendencies. These tendencies no doubt endanger democracy and the rule of law.”
Failure of the governor to pay the judgment sum, The ex-chairmen, and councilors initiated a garnishee proceeding through their lawyer Musibau Adetunbi, SAN to enforce the payment of the judgment sum ordered by the apex court.
The court order
while ruling on the ex-parte application, Justice Ebong ordered the banks to show cause why the order nisi should not be made absolute.
The funds are to settle the outstanding balance of N3,374,889,425.60 the judgment debt owed by the Oyo state government.
The ruling reads: “A garnishee order nisi is hereby granted to attach the judgment debtors’ accounts with garnishees Nos. 1 to 4 in the motion ex-parte, for the purpose of settling the judgment debt outstanding in the sum of N3,374,889,425.60 as awarded by the Supreme Court and conceded by the judgment debtors in Exhibit 11 attached to the applicant’s motion.
“The garnishees (1st to 4th) shall file affidavits and attend court on the next adjourned date to show cause why the order nisi should not be made absolute.
“A copy of this order nisi shall be served on the judgment debtors as required by law. This matter is hereby adjourned to 4/4/2023 for continuation.”
What you should know
- The banks include First Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Wema Bank, and Zenith Bank.
- Listed as judgment debtors with the Oyo State Governor is the state’s Attorney General, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, the Accountant General, the House of Assembly, its Speaker, and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).
- A Garnishee proceeding is a judicial process of executing or enforcing monetary judgment whereby money belonging to a judgment debtor, in the hands or possession of a third party known as the ‘Garnishee’ (usually a bank), is attached or seized by a judgment creditor in satisfaction of a judgment sum.
- While a judgment creditor is a party that is entitled to the judgment sum, a Judgement debtor is the party expected to pay the judgment creditor and a Garnishee is a third party (mostly banks) that the judgment debtor has funds standing to his credit in its possession.
For me, this raises the question of why state governments persist in managing their finances through commercial bank accounts in their name, instead of utilizing the Treasury Single Account system established by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government. In addition to the arbitrary dissolution of local governments, it seems that there seems to be a lack of transparency and accountability in the management of state government funds.