Federal Capital Territory High Court in Abuja has issued an order attaching funds held in four banks to the credit of the Oyo State Government and its agencies.
The order was given by Justice A. O. Ebong in response to a motion ex-parte for a garnishee order brought by the former council members and chairs, who were represented by Bashorun Majeed, Bosun Ajuwon, and Idris Okusesi.
The affected banks, according to our correspondent, are First Bank, United Bank for Africa, Wema Bank, and Zenith Bank.
The banks were given a deadline by Judge Ebong to provide justification for why the ruling should not be rendered absolutely binding.
A certified authentic copy of the judge’s decision on the motion, with the file number FCT/HC/BW/M/238/2023, was observed on Sunday in Abuja.
According to court documents, the money would be used to pay off the remaining sum of N3,374,889,425.60 from a judgment debt owed to several former local government chairpersons and councilors who were fired by Oyo state governor Seyi Makinde on May 29 before the end of their terms.
The garnishee action was brought by the chairpersons and councilors’ attorney, Musibau Adetunbi, in response to a ruling they obtained against the governor and six other people from the Supreme Court on May 7, 2021.
According to the decision, “A garnishee order nisi is hereby granted to attach the judgment debtors’ accounts with the garnishee’s Nos. 1 to 4 in the motion ex-parte, for the purpose of settling the outstanding judgment debt in the sum of N3,374,889,425.60 as awarded by the Supreme Court and conceded by the judgment debtors in Exhibit 11 attached to the applicant’s motion.
“The garnishees (1st to 4th) shall file affidavits and attend court on the next adjourned date to show cause why the order nisi should not be made absolute.
“A copy of this order nisi shall be served on the judgment debtors as required by law. This matter is hereby adjourned to 4/4/2023 for continuation.”
According to the information obtained, the judgment creditors have subsequently served copies of the order on the judgment debtors in accordance with the court’s directive.
The Attorney General, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, the Accountant General, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission are all listed as judgment debtors with the Oyo State Governor.
The OYSIEC-conducted election on March 12, 2018, resulted in the election of the ex-chairpersons and council members for a three-year term.
They filed a lawsuit in Oyo State’s High Court to challenge the constitutionality of Sections 11 and 12 of the Oyo State Local Government Law 2001, which gave the governor and the House of Assembly the authority to remove LG executives from their positions, after learning that Mr. Makinde, who took office on May 29, 2019, intended to fire them.
The Oyo State High Court ruled on May 6, 2019, that Articles 11 and 12 of the state’s Local Government Code 2001 were unconstitutional because they breached Section 7(1) of the Constitution.
Despite the judge’s continued validity, Mr. Makinde fired the chairpersons and council members on May 29, 2019, and then challenged the decision.
The impacted authorities appealed the Court of Appeal’s ruling to the Supreme Court on July 15, 2020, after it had been overturned by the High Court.
A five-member Supreme Court panel led by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun rendered its verdict on May 7, 2021, allowing the appeal designated as SC/CV/556/2020 and overturning the Court of Appeal’s ruling.
The ex-chairpersons and councilors who were wrongfully fired by the governor must get their wages and allowances from May 29, 2019, to May 11, 2021, when their term should have ended, according to the court, which fined Mr. Makinde N20 million in costs.
The Supreme Court harshly criticized Mr. Makinde in the lead opinion written by Judge Ejembi Eko, concluding that he had acted arbitrarily and undemocratically.
Justice Eko stated: “I will not conclude this appeal without commenting on the disturbing ugly face of impunity displayed by the Governor of Oyo State (1st respondent herein) on 29th May 2019, tantamounting to executive lawlessness, outrightly and vehemently condemned by this court in the case of the Military Governor of Lagos State v. Ojukwu.”
He noted that, even before appealing the High Court judgment, Mr. Makinde on May 29, 2019 “issued imperial directives dissolving all democratically elected local Government Councils in Oyo State in spite of the subsisting judgment of Oyo State High Court in the suit No. 1/347/2017.
“Series of applications were filed by the judgment creditors, the present appellants, to restrain, particularly the 1st respondent (the Governor), from embarking on the self-help designed to contemptuously frustrate the judgment of the High Court.
“He was not dissuaded. He proceeded in his imperial omnipotence to continue in his untrammeled, albeit invidious contemptuous, disregard of the subsisting judgment of the High Court.
“It is unthinkable that a democratically elected government would embark on these unwholesome undemocratic tendencies. These tendencies no doubt endanger democracy and the rule of law.
“It is almost becoming a universal phenomenon that the democratically elected Governors have constituted themselves into a specie most dangerous to democracy in this country.
Judge Eko stated, “They contemptuously disrespect and interfere with democratically elected Local Government Councils and appoint their lackeys as caretaker committees to manage Local Governments.”