The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja, on Friday, upheld the Federal Capital Territory High Court judgement of April 27, 2023, which directed Oyo State Governor, Engr Seyi Makinde, to pay the remaining balance of N3.4 billion from the N4.9 billion debt stemming from a Supreme Court judgement of May 7, 2021.
The N4.9 billion debt arose from a Supreme Court judgement against Makinde, Attorney General, Accountant General, and four others in favour of Chairmen and Councillors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who were sacked by the governor when he assumed power on May 29, 2019.
In a unanimous decision, the three-man panel of the Appeal Court led by Justice Danlami Senchi condemned Makinde’s behaviour, describing it as disrespectful to the nation’s judiciary.
Justice Senchi upheld the arguments by counsel to the ex-council chiefs, Musibau Adetunbi (SAN), and resolved the two grounds identified for determination against the appellants.
The judge subsequently dismissed the appeal filed by Makinde and six others for lacking in merit.
The judge referred to a letter written on Dec. 13, 2021, by the Attorney General of Oyo State, where the government put the salaries and allowances due to the ex-council chiefs at N4,874,889,425.60 and pledged to pay everything within six months.
He said the court could not allow Oyo State Government and its officials to approbate and reprobate, blow hot and cold at the same time by claiming the amount constituting the debt was not ascertained despite the letter by the Attorney General and the fact that the appellants took steps to settle the debt by making part payment.
Justice Senchi held that, contrary to the appellants’ contention, there was no debate about the amount of the judgement due.
The judge also criticised the appellants’ claim that the ex-council chiefs failed to acquire the agreement of the Attorney General before instituting a garnishee proceeding to seize the state’s funds to settle the judgement debt.
According to the judge, for the ex-council chiefs to first seek and gain the consent of the Oyo State Attorney General, who is one of the judgement debtors, amounts to making him a judge in his own case, which is unfair to the judgement creditors.
“The ex-council chiefs were in order to have initiated the garnishee proceeding, because there was a judgment debt to be paid by the appellants by virtue of the judgment of the Supreme Court,” the judge said.
The court subsequently ordered Makinde and the other appellants to pay N50 million cost to the ex-council chiefs led by Basorun Bosun Ajuwon.
The Supreme Court had, in its May 7, 2021 judgement, declared the action of the ex-council chiefs, who sued through 11 representatives, led by Basorun Bosun Ajuwon, as lawful and ordered the Oyo State Government to compute and pay them their entitled salaries and allowances within three months of the judgement.
Rather than complying with the judgement, Oyo State Government paid only N1.5 billion, prompting the judgement creditors (the ex-council chiefs) to file a garnishee proceeding against Makinde and others at the FCT High Court.
Justice A. O. Ebong of the FCT High Court issued an absolute garnishee order on April 27, directing Makinde and others to pay the remaining judgement debt in installments, commencing with N1,374,889,425.60 to be paid immediately.
Justice Ebong ordered them to pay the remaining N2 billion in quarterly installments of N500 million, with the first installment due on July 31, 2023, a decision Makinde and others contested at the Court of Appeal.
Aside Makinde, the Attorney General of Oyo State, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Accountant-General of Oyo State, Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly, House of Assembly and Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC) were the other plaintiffs in the suit.