Anti-graft coalition, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC) has called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to investigate a court judgment obtained by the 774 local government councils in the country, ordering the Federal Government to pay them $3.188billion and the diversion of $1.6billion.
The call is a sequel to a report in THE PUNCH edition of 15 June and headlined “Controversy Rages Over $3.2 billion Judgment Against FG”. The coalition’s National Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, said the group has petitioned the anti-graft agency to investigate the activities of the former Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke (SAN); former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and a lawyer, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) in the alleged fraud.
According to CSNAC’s petition against the judgment in the suit ( No FHC/ABJ/129/2013), filed on 11 June, 2013, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, some local councils and Linas International Limited sued the Attorney-General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General of the Federation over the illegal deductions made by the Federal Government from the statutory allocations of the local councils. These were in respect, respectively, of the 1992 London Club Debt buy-back and the 2006 London Club Debit exit.
The plaintiffs in the originating summons, said the petition, claimed the sum of $3.2 billion payable to them from the Federation Account.
CSNAC observed that the suit challenged the decision of the Federal Government taken in 1992, when the action was based on the 1999 Constitution, which did not become operational until May 1999. “Besides, the case was filed to challenge the decision taken by the Federal Government 21 years earlier.
“With respect to the payment of Paris Club debt in 2006, the action took place seven years earlier.
” Yet the trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola gave judgment to the plaintiffs contrary to the Public Officers Protection Act, which has barred the institution of any action against the action of a public officer after three months,” CSNAC explained.
The coalition claimed that Joe Agi, the lawyer who filed the case, is a personal friend and lawyer to Justice Ademola, having represented the judge free of charge when he was investigated over allegations of judicial misconduct by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
In the judgment delivered on December 3, 2013 , Justice Ademola ordered the Federal Government to pay the sum of $3, 188, 079,505.96 ( Three billion, one hundred and eighty-eight million, seventy-nine thousand and five hundred and five naira, ninety-six kobo) to the plaintiffs.
The defendants, noted CSNAC, did not appeal against the judgment and did not draw the attention of the Federal Executive Council to the judgment sum.
“The application for the fiat of the Attorney-General to authorize the payment of the judgment debt was granted by Mr. Adoke (SAN ), while Dr. Okonjo-Iweala authorized the payment of the judgment sum.
“Out of the judgment sum of $3.2 billion, $1.6 billion has been paid to the plaintiffs,” CSNAC said.
The coalition pointed out that $1.6 billion was paid into Agi’s Skye Bank account (No is 10060003931), with the sort code No is 076151019.
CSNAC noted that the Debt Management Office (DMO) found the judgment curious and opposed it, as evidenced by its letter to the Office of Accountant General of the Federation advising against payment of the claims by Linas International Limited. The letter, dated July 12 2012, bore the No: DMO/DRS/01/057/11/430.
The letter, it explained, reminded the Attorney-General of the legal error in challenging an action that took place seven years before the promulgation of the 1999 Constitution. It also drew attention to the fact that repayment done in 1995 was under a unitary structure under a military government, where decisions affecting state and local governments were taken at the federal level.
Yet, Office of the Attorney General, CSNAC observed, via a letter ( Reference no: HAGF/CJD/2014/VOL. II/357 and dated March 24, 2015), gave Adoke’s consent, pursuant to section 84 of the Sheriffs and Civil Act, for the judgment payment from government accounts.
“It was on the basis of the fraudulent consent that the sum of $1.6 billion was paid and shared by the criminal suspects,” CNSAC noted.
The coalition further observed that though the Federal High Court directed that the judgment sum be used for the provision of security and mobile health care system in each of the 774 local councils, $1.6 billion of the sum had been diverted.
The payment of the sum, it added, was not reported in any of the meetings of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) and the National Economic Council (NEC).
After the initial ruling, Justice Ademola was said to have, in another suit between the same parties, delivered judgment on the same day and also ordered the consultants to be paid.
According to the judgment, the plaintiff is entitled to be paid consultancy fees of N1,000,000.00 per Local Government plus 20 percent of all refunds made or yet to be made to each Local Government in settlement of Paris Club debt, whether the refunds were made to the Local Government or through any of their agents or agencies including the 4th defendant.
That a declaration is made that the 2nd and 3rd defendants are entitled to deduct at the source and pay to the plaintiff through his lawyer all consultancy fees due to the plaintiffs from all Local Governments of Nigeria on account of the excess crude funds used by the Federal Government in settlement of Paris Club debt.
That a mandatory order is hereby made on the 2nd and 3rd Defendants to deduct at source and pay to the Plaintiff through his lawyer Joe Agi SAN all consultancy fees.
That a mandatory order of injunction is hereby made restraining the 2nd and 3rd Defendants from releasing further funds to the Local Government unless all consultancy fees have been deducted at source and paid to the Plaintiff through his lawyer’s account with Skye Bank Plc, Sort Code 076151019 – Account No: 1060003931.
CSNAC said from both judgments; Justice Ademola awarded N774 million to the consultant as consultancy fees and another 20 percent of all recovered funds as consultancy fees to him in the second suit. It also pointed out that the judge ordered that the remaining fund be paid to companies and individuals, who were not parties to either of the two suits.
In the Order of Garnishee issued by Justice Ademola 20 May, 2015, he directed that payment be made to companies and individuals that include Phil-Tech Nigeria Limited ($157,755,935.56 via First Bank of Nigeria A/C No: 2025939578), Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($1,354,933.78 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C 0051329942), Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo ($239,105.96 via First Bank A/C 2025921142) and Riok Nigeria Limited ($315,619,871.1 via FBN Plc A/C 2025947832).
Also ordered to be paid were Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($2,709,867.67 via Diamond Bank A/C 0051329942), Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo ($478,211.92 via FBN Plc A/C 2025921142), XI Nigeria Limited ($154,621,856.128 via GTB A/C No:0022764433), Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($4,064,801.37 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C 0051329942), Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo $17,317.80 via FBN A/C2025921142), Snecou Group of Companies Limited ($157,755,935.56 via UBA A/C No: 300093201) and Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($1,354,933.78 via Diamond Bank Plc A/C 0051329942).
The rest were Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo ($239,105.96 via FBN A/C2025921142), Wells Procurement Services Limited ($318,807,950.596 being 10% of the judgment sum), Systematic Engineering Limited ( $156,215,601.79 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C No: 0054426581) and, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu the sum of ($3,188,073.50 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C 0051329942).
CSNAC urged the EFCC to accelerate the investigation, so that local councils, a majority of which are owing arrears of workers’ salaries could benefit from the recovery of the $1.6 billion wrongly paid to the plaintiffs.