The Court of Appeal, has queried the competence of an appeal brought by Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and others against an FCT High Court order, directing them to pay the outstanding balance of N3.4 billion from the N4.9 billion debt.
The amount is from a May 7, 2021 judgment of the Supreme Court.
A three-member panel, chaired by Justice Haruna Tsammani at the commencement of proceedings, asked the appellants’ lawyer, Ayodele Akintunde, SAN, if he thought it was proper for the Court of Appeal to sit and review a case that had been decided by the Supreme Court.
The court also asked Akintunde about the time limit given by the Supreme Court, within which the Oyo State governor and other appellants were to fully pay the judgment debt.
The appellate court further questioned the competence of a motion by the appellants , seeking to be allowed to pay the debt by instalment, noting that the appeal itself was against a similar installment payment arrangement ordered by the High Court of the FCT.
Responding, Akintunde said the Supreme Court actually ordered the Oyo State Government to pay within three months.
He added that the appeal did not directly touch on the judgment by the apex court, and that the judgement was no longer that of the Supreme Court, but that of the High Court of Oyo State, which was later registered in the High Court of the FCT.
Akintunde , added that parties had since compromised the judgement by taking certain steps.
It will be recalled that the N4,874,889,425.60 debt arose from a judgment got against Makinde, the state’s Attorney-General (A-G), the Accountant-General and four others.
The suit was filed 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.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment, declared the sack of the ex-council chiefs, who sued through 11 representatives, led by Bashorun Majeed Ajuwon, as unlawful.
The apex court then 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.
On April 27, Justice A. O. Ebong of the FCT High Court 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 N2 billion at N500 million quarterly, with the first instalment payable on July 31, 2023, a decision Makinde and others are now challenging at the Court of Appeal in the appeal marked : CA/ABJ/CV/595/2023.
Arguing at the hearing on Monday, lawyer to the ex-council chiefs, Musibau Adetunbi, SAN, regretted that 26 of his clients had since died from poverty and lack of funds to attend to their health, owing to the state government’s failure to comply with the various orders of court made in their favour.
Adetunbi faulted the appellants’ contention that his client could not enforce the judgment through garnishee proceeding because the judgment sum was not reflected.
He drew the court’s attention to a letter written on December 13, 2021 by the Oyo State A-G, 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.
Adetunbi also drew the attention of the court to a letter dated May 8, 2023 written by one of the Oyo State’s bankers, First Bank, and read a portion, where the bank said the N1,374,889,425.60 belonging to the state, which was attached by the garnishee order, would have been paid if not for this pending appeal.
He faulted the appellants’ contention that it was mandatory for the judgment creditors to first obtain the consent of the state’s A-G where funds belonging to a state or its agencies are concerned.
He argued that by their conduct, particularly the December 13, 2021, suggested that the A-G consented to the liquidation of the debt.
Adetunbi, said the failure of Makinde and others to pay the money was deliberate, urginh the court not to indulge the appellants blatant disregard for the nation’s judicial process by dismissing the appeal.
After entertaining arguments from both lawyers, the appellate court consequently reserved judgment in the case after taking arguments from counsel to the parties.(NAN/vitalnewsngr.com)