Court blocks Oyo govt accounts in four banks over ₦3.4 billion debt
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja has blocked the Oyo State government account in four banks over ₦3,374,889,425.60, debt
Justice A. O. Ebong, while ruling on a motion ex-parte for a garnishee order, issued an order attaching funds to the credit of the state government account in First Bank, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Wema Bank, and Zenith Bank.
Justice Ebong ordered the banks to show cause why the order should not be made absolute. The ruling on the motion marked FCT/HC/BW/M/238/2023 was delivered by the judge on March 2, and a certified true copy (CTC) was sighted on Sunday in Abuja.
The funds, according to court filings, are to settle the outstanding balance of N3,374,889,425.60 from the judgement debt owed some former local government chairpersons and councillors sacked on May 29, 2019, before the end of their tenure by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
“A garnishee order nisi is hereby granted to attach the judgement debtors’ accounts with garnishees Nos. 1 to 4 in the motion ex-parte, for the purpose of settling the judgement debt outstanding in the sum of N3,374,889,425.60, as awarded by the Supreme Court and conceded by the judgement debtors in Exhibit 11 attached to the applicant’s motion,” the ruling reads.
It was gathered that the judgement creditors have since effected service of copies of the order on the judgement debtors, as ordered by the court.
Listed as judgement debtors with the Oyo State Governor are 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).
The ex-chairpersons and councillors were elected in the election conducted by OYSIEC on March 12, 2018, for a three-year term.
Upon learning that Makinde, who took office on May 29, 2019, had planned to sack them, they sued before 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.
The Oyo State High Court, in its judgement on May 6, 2019, declared Sections 11 and 12 of the state’s Local Government Law 2001 as unconstitutional on the grounds that they violated Section 7(1) of the Constitution.
Despite the subsistence of the judgement, Makinde sacked the chairpersons and councillors on May 29, 2019, and subsequently appealed the judgement.
In its judgement on May 7, 2021, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun allowed the appeal marked SC/CV/556/2020 and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal.
The court, which awarded a cost of N20 million against Mr Makinde, ordered that the ex-chairpersons and councillors, who were unlawfully sacked by the governor, be paid their salaries and allowances from May 29, 2019, to May 11, 2021, when their tenure ought to have expired.
In the lead judgement by Justice Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court came down hard on Makinde, whom it found to have acted arbitrarily and undemocratic.
The Court of Appeal, in its judgement on July 15, 2020, set aside the judgement of the High Court, a decision the affected officials appealed at the Supreme Court.
“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 May 29, 2019, tantamounting to executive lawlessness, outrightly and vehemently condemned by this court in the case of the Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu.” Justice Eko said
Justice Eko noted that, even before appealing the High Court judgement, Makinde, on May 29, 2019, “issued imperial directives dissolving all democratically elected local government councils in Oyo State in spite of the subsisting judgement of the Oyo State High Court in the suit No. 1/347/2017.
“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 omnipotency to continue in his untrammelled, albeit invidious contemptuous, disregard of subsisting judgment of the High Court.
“It is unthinkable that a democratically elected governor would embark on these unwholesome undemocratic tendencies. These tendencies no doubt endanger democracy and the rule of law.
“It is almost becoming universal phenomena that the democratically elected Governors have constituted themselves into a specie most dangerous to democracy in this country.
“They disdainfully disregard and disrupt democratically elected Local Government Councils and appoint their lackeys as caretaker committees to run affairs of Local Governments.”