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N3.5bn debt: Court freezes Oyo State govt.’s accounts in 10 banks

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja has issued an order attaching the accounts of the Oyo State Government in ten commercial banks in the country.

The order was issued by Justice A. O. Ebong, in a ruling on a garnishee proceeding initiated by ex-council chiefs in Oyo State, who were sacked on May 29, 2019 by Gov. Seyi Makinde.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the sacked local government chairmen and councillors had, in 2021, got a N4,874,889,425.60 judgment against Makinde and other officials/agencies of the state.

The other officials/agencies listed with Makinde as judgment debtors, by virtue of the May 7, 2021 judgment of the Supreme Court, are the Attorney-General, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs,  Accountant-General of Oyo State, Speaker of the House of Assembly, the House of Assembly and the Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC).

The garnishee proceeding was intended by the ex-council chiefs, led by Bashorun Majeed Ajuwon, to recover the balance of N3,424,889,425.60 (N3.5 billion) which is outstanding from the actual judgment sum, from which Makinde paid only N1.5 billion in 2022.

What was outstanding in respect of the Supreme Court judgment was N3,374,889,425.60, but the Court of Appeal in Abuja added N50 million, which it awarded as cost against Makinde and others in a judgment on Dec. 8, dismissing their appeal.

The banks in which the state government’s accounts were 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.

Justice Ebong delivered the ruling on Dec. 15 on a motion marked: BW/M/85/2023 but its certified true copy (CTC) was gotten on Monday.

He ordered the garnishees (the banks) to file affidavits and attend the court on the next adjourned date to show cause why the garnishee orders nisi hereby granted should not be made absolute.

The judge awarded N300,000.00 as cost against the judgment debtors; ordered that a copy of the order be served on Makinde and others and adjourned till Jan. 5, 2024 for hearing.

NAN recalls that on May 7, 2021 when the Supreme Court gave judgment, voiding Makinde’s sack of elected local government chairmen and councillors in Oyo State, the apex court gave similar judgment in respect of Katsina State and ordered both states to pay the salaries and allowances of the effected ex-council chiefs.

Justice Ejembi Eko, who delivered the lead judgment in the Oyo State case, condemned the decision by Makinde to unlawfully sack the elected council chiefs before the end of their tenure.

But, while the Katsina State Government had since paid its ex-council chiefs, who were unlawfully sacked, the Oyo State Government had failed to pay the ex-council chiefs in the appeal marked: SC/CV/556/2020.

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