The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has appealed a judgment which ordered the garnishment of N38 billion owed by the federal and 36 state governments.
The apex bank also filed a motion seeking a stay of the execution of the judgment, which is in favour of Cross River born lawyer, Joe Agi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
Agi had filed a garnishee order nisi against the CBN, the Minister of Finance/Chairman of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), and the Accountant-General of the Federation, who were sued as the first, second, and third garnishees, respectively, before the federal high court in Abuja.
The request for garnishee order nisi was predicated on a judgment delivered by Taiwo Taiwo, retired judge of the Abuja federal high court, wherein the minister of finance, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), the AGF and the attorneys-general of the 36 states were ordered to pay the sum of N38,878,451,742.22, owed the plaintiff being the sum of his legal fees which was allegedly paid to the NGF by the minister of finance on the instruction of the 36 states governors.
In a ruling delivered on July 22, 2022, J K Omotosho, judge of the federal high court, ordered the garnishees to appear before the court to show cause why the garnishee order nisi should not be made absolute.
In response, the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN. which was represented by the law offices of Messrs. Kenna Partners and O.M. Atoyebi SAN & Partners, filed an affidavit to show cause why the garnishee order nisi should not be made absolute.
In addition, the apex bank filed an application urging the court to set aside the order nisi on a number of grounds, one of which was that the order nisi attaching funds in the federation account to satisfy a judgment debt, overreaches the provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution.
However, the judge disagreed with the arguments made by the attorneys for the judgment debtors and CBN and ruled that the funds to the judgment debtors’ credit should be garnished.
The court also held that once the monies accruing to the judgment debtors are deducted from the federation account, the amount should be paid into an interest-yielding account through the chief registrar of the court to prevent the sum from being dissipated.
However, the CBN argued in the appeal against the judge’s decision that the judgment creditor had violated Section 84 of the Sheriff’s and Civil Process Act by starting the garnishee proceedings against the CBN without the approval of the AGF.
The appellants further argued that the garnishee proceedings were an abuse of court processes because the plaintiff/applicant (Joe Agi, SAN) had already obtained an absolute garnishee order in suit FHC/CS/1193/2017, a case involving the same judgment amount, for which there were appeals and a motion for stay of execution pending at the Court of Appeal.
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