The chairmen of the 16 Local Government Areas in Ekiti State have sued the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as well as governors of the 36 states of the federation for approving the withdrawal of $1bn from the Excess Crude Account for the fight against insurgency.
They, through their lawyer, Ola Olanipekun, filed the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1264/17, before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday.
A 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Everest Igweokolo, a litigation executive in Olanipekun’s law firm, was filed in support of the suit.
The plaintiffs prayed for an order of injunction restraining the Federal Government and the governors of the 36 states of the federation or their agents, from giving effect to “the appropriation and/or approval of appropriation of the sum of $1bn from the ECA of the Federation.
They contended that the approval of the $1bn, being challenged, was contained in the decision made on December 15, 2017 at the National Economic Council.
They maintained that the approval was invalid unless and it was by means of statutory allocation by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
They therefore prayed the court to declare that the approval of the sum of $1bn by the 36 state governors to “purportedly execute the constitutional duty of the Federal Government, which has been sufficiently funded from the Federation Account, without their consent, is ultra vires, unlawful, null and void.”
The LGA chairmen and the plaintiffs, who instituted the suit, are Deji Ogunsakin (Ado LGA); Bola Alonge (Ikere LGA); Lanrewaju Omolase (Ekiti South-West LGA); Dapo Olagunju (Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA); Samuel Adeniyi (Ekiti East LGA); Olumide Falade (Ise/Orun LGA); Sade Akinrinmola (Gbonyin LGA); Tayo Ogundare (Oye LGA); and Chief Ayodeji Arogbodo (Ido/Osi LGA).
The rest are Taiwo Oguntuase (Emure LGA); Kolawole Omotunde (Ekiti West LGA); Bolaji Jeje (Efon LGA); Adesola Adeyanju (Ikole LGA); Ganiyu Bakare (Ilejemele LGA); Adeniyi Adebayo (Moba LGA) and Abiodun Dada (Ijero LGA).
The plaintiffs also asked for the court’s order declaring that in the discharge of “its constitutional duty to safeguard the security and territorial integrity of Nigeria, the Federal Government of Nigeria, being the 1st defendant’s principal, must be funded in accordance with its appropriation Act and by means of due accruals from the Federation Account only.”
They also seek “a declaration that the 1st to 37 defendants’ appropriation and /or approval of appropriation of the sum of $1bn from the Excess Crude Account of the federation made at the National Economic Council meeting of December 12, 2017, without regard to the consent of the 38th defendant (the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission), the plaintiffs (integral part of the local governments of the federation of Nigeria) and the due appropriation of the various states’ Houses of Assembly, is unconstitutional, unlawful, ultra vires, null, void ab initio and of no effect whatsoever.”
They also asked the court for a declaration that they were “entitled to full share of all revenue accrued and accruable to the Federation Account and the Federation Excess Crude Account or any other Account whatsoever operated by and for the Federation of Nigeria, including the sum of $1,000,000,000 (which was purportedly approved for the expenditure of the Federal Government by the 1st to 37th defendants at the 83rd National Economic Council meeting of December 15, 2017, in accordance with Section 162 of the 1999 constitution and the provisions of Allocation of Revenue (Federation Account) Act.”
They argued that “whether by the provisions of sections 153 (1) (h), 162 and paragraph 18, part 1 of the third schedule to the 1999 Constitution, the 1st to 37th defendants can lawfully appropriate and or approve the appropriation of funds in the excess crude account of the federation of Nigeria, without affecting, reducing or obliterating the plaintiffs’ lawful share of proceeds from the federation account.”
The plaintiffs asked the court to determine “whether the 2nd defendant can lawfully appropriate and/or approve the appropriation of funds in the excess crude account of the federation of Nigeria without the consent and/or consultation of the plaintiffs.”
Another issue they asked the court to determine was “whether in the discharge of the Federal Government’s constitutional duty of safeguarding the security and territorial integrity of Nigeria, (as mandated by Section 217 of the 1999 Constitution, the Federal Government can lawfully resort to funding other than by means of its Appropriation Act.”
Fayose, Yari openly disagree on ECA fund withdrawal
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari; and the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, on Tuesday, openly disagreed on the $1bn the governors recently asked the Federal Government to withdraw from the ECA to fight insurgency.
While Yari, who is also the Zamfara State Governor, insisted that the resolution was reached at the forum’s meeting in November, Fayose declared that he was not part of such a decision.
The two governors took the positions while addressing State House correspondents at the end of an emergency meeting of the NGF held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Yari said the decision taken by the governors was not new, stressing that a similar decision to withdraw $2bn from the same account was taken during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said, “Nigeria Governors’ Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing had been done in 2014, where $2bn was withdrawn in agreement with the governors at that meeting. Governor (Godwill) Akpabio (then governor of Akwa Ibom State) was the one that moved the motion.
“This time, we realised that there was the need to purchase equipment for the military. So, we felt we should not compromise the issue of security for the entire country.
“We said as governors, we agreed to forfeit $1bn out of our own share of excess crude, which we are going to back up with state assembly resolution at a later time.
“This is not the first time a decision like this is being taken. It happened during Jonathan’s era when they took $2bn. We all agreed at that time, collectively, in the same chamber to withdraw $2bn to procure equipment for the military and also for logistics for the military because they were telling us whether it was true or false that our soldiers were being killed.
“Some came on the social media saying they were being killed like rats because they didn’t have the training and the equipment. That was what generated discussions at the same chamber and there was no controversy; there was no opposition to the decision at that time.”
Yari also recalled that under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, over N5bn was withdrawn when funds were being sourced for the Niger Delta Power Holding Company.
He said the same process was followed to withdraw the money from the same account while respective Houses of Assembly confirmed the resolution.
He urged all stakeholders to stop playing politics with national security.
The Zamfara State governor added, “At the governors’ forum, 12 members form a quorum. At the time we took this decision, we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision.
“If anybody has his own way, that he wants things to go, we had the majority and there was no (even) minority opinion at that meeting.
“We looked at the country first before any other issue. It is only when you have the country that you can have politics.”
Yari alleged that the Federal Government had, in the past, deducted money from the account illegally.
He said those in charge, as of the time, failed to listen to the governors’ complaints, expressing delight that the present government listened.
But Fayose claimed that he was not in support of the decision to withdraw the $1bn.
He added that he had approached the court in order to get justice.
The Ekiti State governor stated, “I’m not in support of $1bn and I will never be in support.
“In my state, we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right. All accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and for me to get justice, I have to go to court.”
Fayose said although the issue was not discussed at the Tuesday meeting, he had taken the appropriate steps because the money belonged to the people of his state.
When he was asked if he was opposing the decision on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party governors, Fayose said, “I am speaking for Ayo Fayose. With the PDP and the stakeholders, we have not met.
“I did not attend the meeting. Even if I was part of the meeting, I would have made it expressly clear but I will not support it.
“Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. In Ekiti State, people are hungry.
“A lot of people are being kidnapped daily. Whatever is in that money for me, we should share it. Let everybody go and solve his own problem. I have challenges and they should give me my money. It is Ekiti money.”
He added, “I filed the case in court as early as 12noon today. If it was not listed as part of the meeting, how am I going to raise the issue? I have options and I have said it expressly: I have gone to court.
“If it was one of the issues discussed, I would have said so. I am not a pretender, I won’t suffer in silence.”
Govs’ approval should not be politicised –Dickson
But backing Yari, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State explained that the NGF’s decision to grant the Federal Government permission to utilise $1bn from the ECA for security was taken in good fate.
Dickson noted that the decision was not a political one but meant to strengthen the country’s security apparatus.
“It was a decision taken in good fate to support our security services; to strengthen our national security and enhance operations in the interest of everybody else.
“This is not a political issue and I thought that I should say that, but the details of what we would do and say and the clarifications will come at the end of the meeting of the governors,” he added.
Dickson said the governors would meet later in the day to fine tune how to move the matter further, noting that there was a lot of unnecessary controversy on the approval in the media.
He stated, “After the meeting this afternoon, our chairman and some of us may have to talk to the media, may have the need to interact with the President and the Vice-President on it.
“These are issues of national security and I think that we, as leaders, must be circumspect in terms of creating controversies on issues of national security.
“Our duty is to collaborate among ourselves, collaborate with the Federal Government on two critical issues of national security and issues of the economy, and that is what the NEC does.”
Source Punch Newspaper