Oyo AG faults Makinde’s claim of lack of funds to pay N3.4b debt:

Governor Seyi Makinde

Oyo AG faults Makinde’s claim of lack of funds to pay N3.4b debt:

*Says funds exist in state’s account with First Bank

By Kayode Lawal, Abuja
January 07, 2024

The Accountant General (AG) of Oyo State, Mrs. K. O. Adegoke has faulted claim by Governor Seyi Makinde that his state lacks the capacity to pay the N3,374,889,425.60 debt owed former Local Government Chairmen and Councilors who he sacked on assuming office on May 29, 2019.

Mrs. Adegoke’s position is contained in a fresh document filed by one of the state’s bankers before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja in a garnishee proceeding initiated by the  ex-council chiefs.

The garnishee proceeding was initiated against Makinde, Oyo State and others, following a December 8 judgment of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which ordered the governor to pay the debt, which now stands at N3,425,300,000.

In the court document, the Oyo AG revealed that there were sufficient funds in the state’s account with First Bank of Nigeria Limited and that the bank has been directed to set aside the  N3,425,300,000 for the settlement of the outstanding judgment debt.

The Supreme Court had, in a judgment on May 7, 2021 declared Makinde’s sack of the council officials before the end of their three-year tenure as unlawful; ordered him to pay them the salaries and allowances they ought have earned for the tenure, which the Oyo State Government later estimated at N4,874,889,425.60.

The governor authorized the payment of N1.5billion in 2022, leaving an outstanding sum of N3,374,889,425.60 (about N3.4 billion), in respect of which he later applied to the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), via a motion filed on April 3, 2023 praying to be allowed to pay the outstanding debt in instalment of N300m every six months, a request Justice Anote Ebong rejected.

Makinde had in the motion, claimed among others, that Oyo State has no resources to pay the judgment debt and that the state would be unable to meet its obligations should the debt be paid in a manner deferent from what he proposed.

In rejecting Makinde’s proposal, Justice Ebong, in a ruling on April 27, 2023 though, granted Makinde’s request  to pay in instalment, varied his payment plan, on the grounds that, if allowed to pay the way he proposed, it would take the state six years to fully defray the debt, long after his tenure.

Justice Ebong order one of Oyo State’s bankers, First Bank of Nigeria, to immediately pay the ex-council chiefs N1,374,889,425.60 and directed Makinde to pay the remaining balance of N2billion in instalment of N500 million every six months, with the first instalment payable on July 31, 2023.

Makinde appealed Justice Ebong’s decision at the Court of Appeal in Abuja and repeated his claim that his state was broke and would be unable to meet it’s obligations should it comply with the order by the High Court of the FCT.

In a judgement on December 8, 2023, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal dismissed Makinde’s appeal; ordered him to comply with Justice Ebong’s order and awarded N50million cost against him.

Armed with the December 8 judgment of the Court of Appeal, the ex-council chiefs led by Bashorun Mojeed Bosun Ajuwon, went back to Justice Ebong’s court for an order attaching Oyo State Government’s accounts in 10 banks in a fresh garnishee proceeding.

It is in response to the court’s order for the banks to show cause why the garnishee order nisi should not be made absolute against them that one of the banks tendered the letter by the Oyo State Accountant General.

In the letter, Mrs. Adegoke said: “We wish to inform you that First Bank of Nigeria Ltd has already set aside the sum of N3,425,300,000.00 on Oyo State Joint Local Government Allocation Account,” in respect of the garnishee order by Justice Ebong.

First Bank, in its response to the garnishee order, confirmed that it had sufficient funds in Oyo State’s account to cover the judgment debt.

It added that “Oyo State has an account with the bank with funds sufficient to cover the judgment sum of N2,050,300,000.00.”

At a the resumed hearing in the garnishee proceedings on January 5, Makinde’s lawyer, Alfred Akinjo-Nelson told the court that his client was unhappy with the Court of Appeal decision and has appealed to the Supreme Court.

When asked by Justice Ebong what his client’s grievance was with the judgment debt, Akinjo-Nelson said Makinde and the other judgment debtors were not contesting the judgment debt, but were uncomfortable with the mode of payment ordered by Justice Ebong.

Akinjo-Nelson also faulted the suggestion by lawyer to Access Bank Plc, one of Oyo State ‘s bankers, Solomon Umoh (SAN) that other banks affected by the garnishee order nisi should be excused in view of the revelation that sufficient funds have been reserved with First Bank to defray the judgment debt.

Although lawyer to the judgment creditors (the ex-council chiefs), Musibau Adetunbi (SAN) agreed that the other nine garnishee banks be excused, except First Bank, Akinjo-Nelson argued otherwise.

Akinjo-Nelson sought time to respond to some applications filed by the judgment creditors, including one in which they are seeking to play a recording of an alleged media chat by Makinde, where he was said to have commented on  decisions by the various courts on the case.

Justice Ebong has adjourned till January 18 for the hearing of pending applications and possibly continuation of the garnishee proceedings.

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