Appeal Court fines Gov. Makinde, others N50m for withholding ex-council chiefs’ funds

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*Photo: Gov Makinde *

The Court of Appeal in  Abuja, on Friday awarded N50 million in damages against Gov..Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, and six others for failure to pay the outstanding balance of N3,374,889,425.60 (N3.4 billion) from the N4,874,889,425.60 (N4.9 billion) debt, arising from a May 7, 2021 judgment of the Supreme Court.

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A three-member panel of justices, in a unanimous judgment, condemned Makinde’s conduct, which it described as disrespectful of the nation’s judicial system.

The court affirmed the April 27 decision of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) ordering the state governor to paid the outstanding balance.

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The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the N4.9 billion debt arose from the judgment of the Supreme Court given against Makinde, the state’s Attorney-General (A-G), Accountant-General and four others in an appeal by chairmen and councillors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but sacked on May 29,  2019, by Makinde, upon assuming office.

In the judgment, the appellate court upheld the arguments by the lawyer to the ex-council chiefs, Musibau Adetunbi, SAN, resolved the two issues, identified for determination, against the appellants and  dismissed the appeal filed by Makinde and six others for lacking in merit.

The court awarded N50 million cost against Makinde and co-appellants, to be paid to the ex-council chiefs led by Bashorun Mojeed Bosun Ajuwon.

The judgment was on the appeal marked: CA/595/2023 filed by Makinde, the Oyo State’s A-G, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Accountant-General of Oyo State, Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly, the House of Assembly and Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).

In the lead judgment, Justice Danlami Senchi held that, as against the contention by the appellants, there was no dispute in relation to the amount that constituted the judgment debt.

The judge referred to a letter written on Dec. 13, 2021, by the A-G of Oyo State, where the state put the salaries and allowances due to the ex-council chiefs at N4,874,889,425.60 and pledged to pay everything within six months.

He said the court could not allow Oyo State Government and its officials to approbate and reprobate; blow hot and cold at the same time by claiming the amount constituting the debt was not ascertained despite the letter by the A-G and the fact that the appellants took steps to settle the debt by making part payment.

Justice Senchi also faulted the appellants’ contention that the ex-council chiefs failed to first obtain the consent of the Oyo State A-G before initiating a garnishee proceeding to seize the state’s funds to settle the judgment debt.

The judge said asking the ex-council chiefs to first seek and obtain the consent of the Oyo A-G, who was one of the judgment debtors, amounted to  making him to be a judge in his own case, “which requirement is unfair to the judgment creditors.”

“The ex-council chiefs were in order to have initiated the garnishee proceeding, because there was a judgment debt to be paid by the appellants by virtue of the judgment of the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Supreme Court had, in its May 7, 2021 judgment, declared the action of the ex-council chiefs, who sued through 11 representatives, led by Bashorun Majeed Ajuwon, as lawful and ordered the Oyo State Government to compute and pay them their entitled salaries and allowances within three months of the judgment.

Rather than comply with the judgment, the Oyo State Government paid only N1.5 billion, prompting the judgment creditors (the ex-council chiefs) to initiate a garnishee proceeding against Makinde and others before the High Court of the FCT.

In the April 27 ruling, Justice A. O. Ebong of the High Court of the FCT issued a garnishee order absolute, directing Makinde and others to pay the balance of the judgment debt on instalment basis, begining with N1,374,889,425.60 to be paid immediately.

Justice Ebong ordered them to subsequently pay the remaining N2b billion at N500 million quarterly, with the first instalment payable on July 31, a decision Makinde and others challenged at the Court of Appeal.

NAN reports that it was the April 27 ruling by Justice Ebong that the Court of Appeal affirmed in the judgment delivered on Friday.(NAN)

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