Court dismisses governors’ suit against NFIU on regulation of LG spending
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, dismissed a suit filed by the 36 states’ attorneys-general and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum challenging the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) from implementing its guidelines on local government spending.
Justice Ekwo, who dismissed the suit for lacking in merit, held that upon studying the provisions of the NFIU’s guidelines, he was unable to see where the provisions thereof contradict or conflict with the provision of Sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b) of the constitution.
“I am also unable to see how the provisions of the 2nd defendant (NFIU)’s guidelines contradict or conflict with the provisions of Section 162(6) of the constitution which creates the ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ into which allocations to the local government councils of the state from the Federation Account and from the government of the state shall be paid,” Justice Ekwo said.
The court said that the guidelines did not contradict Section 162(8) of the constitution, which prescribed that the amount standing to the credit of the local government council of the state shall be distributed among the local government councils of that state on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly of the state.
According to him, the provisions of the 2nd defendant’s guidelines do not contradict or conflict with the provisions of the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution which prescribes the functions of a local government council.
“The duty of the court is limited to expounding the law and not expanding it.
“On the whole, I see the provisions of the guidelines of the 2nd defendant as seeking to direct the monitoring of accounts, transfers and any other means of payment or transfer of funds of local government councils as provided for in Section 3 (1) (r) of the Act of the NFIU.
“It only limits cash withdrawal made from any Local Government Account anywhere in the country to amount not exceeding N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) per day.
“Any amount higher than that can be done using other methods of banking transaction save cash.
He said, “Unless it can be shown that there is any provision of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which these provisions of the 2nd defendant’s guidelines have contradicted or conflicted directly and practically, then the issue of unconstitutionality cannot be said to arise,”
The judge further said that he found that there was no provision of the NFIU’s guidelines that have contravened the provisions of Sections 7(1), (6) (a) and (b), 162 (6), (7) and (8), and the 4th Schedule to the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“I also find that the case of the plaintiffs has not been established and I so hold,” he ruled.
Justice Ekwo, consequently, resolved questions 1 to 5 formulated by the plaintiffs on the originating summons in the negative.
“I find in the end, that the case of the plaintiffs lacks merit and ought to be dismissed and it is hereby dismissed. This is the order of this Court,” the judge declared.