The Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, has ordered an attachment of the Oyo State government‘s accounts in 10 Nigerian commercial banks.
The court issued the order in a move to enforce the payment of N3.4 billion judgement debt owed by the government.
With the order, it implies the government, although, may have access to the accounts, is barred from drawing funds from the accounts to less than N3.4 billion balance in them.
Achibong Ebong, the judge, issued the order in a ruling on a garnishee proceeding initiated by former local government area officials in Oyo State.
The banks in which the Oyo State Government’s accounts are blocked are – Zenith Bank, United Bank of Africa (UBA), Wema Bank, First Bank of Nigeria, Ecobank, Guaranty Trust Bank, Access Bank, Polaris Bank, Jaiz Bank, and Union Bank.
The area council officials, comprising chairpersons and councillors, were sacked on 29 May 2019 by Governor Seyi Makinde when he took office.
But the officials sued the state government, and in 2021 got a N4,874,889,425.60 judgement against Mr Makinde and other agencies of the state.
The garnishee proceeding is intended by the erstwhile local council bosses led by Bashorun Ajuwon, to recover the balance of N3,424,889,425.60 (N3.4 billion) which is outstanding from the actual judgement sum, from which Makinde paid only N1.5b in 2022.
The outstanding balance of the Supreme Court judgement was N3,374,889,425.60, but the Court of Appeal in Abuja added N50 Million, which it awarded as cost against Mr Makinde and others in a judgement on 8 December dismissing their appeal.
The judge, Mr Ebong, in the ruling delivered on 15 December, ordered the garnishees (the banks) to “file affidavits and attend this court on the next adjourned date to show cause why the garnishee orders nisi hereby granted should not be made absolute.”
Mr Ebong awarded N300,000.00 as a cost against the judgement debtors (Mr Makinde and the government). He ordered that a copy of the order be served on the debtors.
Thereafter, the judge adjourned the proceedings until 5 January 2024 for a hearing.
About three years ago when it nullified the sack of the elected government officials by Mr Makinde, the Supreme Court gave a similar judgement in respect of Katsina State and ordered both states to pay the salaries and allowances of the affected ex-council chiefs.
Ejembi Eko, the Supreme Court justice who delivered the lead judgment on the Oyo State case, condemned the decision by Mr Makinde to illegally remove the elected local council chiefs before the end of their tenure.
“I will not conclude this appeal without commenting on the disturbing ugly face of impunity displayed by the Governor of Oyo State on 29th May 2019 which is tantamounting to executive lawlessness, outrightly and vehemently condemned by this.
“Local government chairmen and councillors, being persons duly elected by the people cannot just be removed and their councils dissolved whimsically and arbitrarily by any other elected persons in clear abuse of their office and powers. It is not right in law and under the Constitution to do that,” Mr Eko said.
However, while the Katsina State government has since paid its wrongfully sacked ex-council chiefs, the Oyo State government under Mr Makinde has refused to pay the ex-council chiefs he sacked before the end of their tenure.
The ex-council chiefs’ lawyer, Musibau Adetunbi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had during a hearing in the appeal filed by Mr Makinde at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, decried that some of his clients had died while others were suffering after they were unlawfully relieved of their jobs by Mr Makinde.
In one of the court papers, the ex-council chiefs said, “As of date, we have lost 26 of our members, whose children are crying to the conscience of His Excellency (Mr Makinde) for justice.
“Obviously, if His Excellency (Makinde) had paid our money within the six months expressly pledged by the immediate past Attorney General on his behalf, our deceased colleagues would have had little money to attend to the sicknesses that took most of them away.”
The officials, drawn from the 33 local government areas (LGAs) and 35 local council development areas (LCDAs) and their councillors, were members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
They were elected during the tenure of the immediate past governor, the late Abiola Ajimobi.
The officials were later replaced with caretaker chairmen and councillors who belong to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Following their removal, the sacked officials under the umbrella of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) under the leadership of Abass Aleshinloye, approached an Oyo State High Court in Ibadan.
They argued that they were illegally removed by Mr Makinde. The matter did not favour them and they went to appeal.
But, the appeal court in its ruling in July 2020 ruled in favour of Mr Makinde.
Again, the sacked officials went to the Supreme Court and on 7 May 2021, the Supreme Court ruled in their favour.