The Benue State Government has appealed to a Federal High Court in Abuja to set aside its earlier order, freezing all its bank accounts.
Counsel to the state government, Terkura Pepe, SAN, who told Justice Inyang Ekwo while moving his affidavit of urgency in support of the motion on notice, said Benue State Government had been incapacitated by the interim order.
Pepe said that the affidavit of urgency marked: FHC/ABJ/AMC/74/2021 was dated and filed on Nov. 2.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Ekwo had, on Oct. 26, made an interim order, freezing all bank accounts of the Benue government maintained in all the banks in the country, following its inability to pay back the N333 million loan borrowed in 2008.
The judge also made an interim order “freezing and attaching the JAAC Bank Accounts (Joint Accounts Allocation committee), Internal Generated Revenue Accounts, all bank accounts both current, savings, fixed deposits and/or investments accounts of the 2nd respondent (Benue Government) maintained with all the banks mentioned above pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.”
Ekwo, who gave the order following an ex-parte motion brought by Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), also directed that the bank accounts of HPPS Multilink Services Ltd be frozen pending the hearing and the determination of the substantive suit.
He further made an interim order, “restraining all banks and/or other financial institutions above mentioned in Nigeria forthwith from releasing or dealing in any manner, howsoever, with monies held in any account to which the respondents are signatories pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
“An order is hereby made directing all banks and/or other financial institutions in Nigeria to within seven days of the date of service of this order, file and serve an affidavit of compliance disclosing with statements on each account howsoever designated, held and/or maintained by the respondents and ail accounts to which the respondents are signatories for a period of six months prior to the date of service of this order till date.”
NAN also reports that while AMCON is the claimant, the company and the state government are 1st and 2nd respondents respectively.
Although the matter came up on Tuesday for the banks to show an affidavit of compliance with the order, Justice Ekwo had adjourned the matter until Nov. 22.
However, Pere, on Thursday, told the court that there was a need for the application to be heard expeditiously due to the urgency involved.
He said the Benue State Government has been completely shut down by the interim order of the court.
Giving 28 reasons why their request should be granted, the senior lawyer said: “That the said sweeping order freezing and attaching all bank accounts of Benue State Government is so far-reaching that the Consolidated Revenue Account of Benue State has been frozen.
“That there are incessant security challenges in Benue State like in all parts of Nigeria, and funds are required to meet these challenges.
“That salaries of workers and pensions in the state cannot be paid due to the interim order.
“That the entire executive, judicial and legislative arms of Benue State Government have also been crippled by the interim order, as judges, judicial workers, legislators and staff or parliament cannot be paid until the interim order is vacated.
“That Benue State Government has been incapacitated by the interim order.
“That the state cannot respond to any of the sundry security challenges and fulfil its daily operational needs.
“That it is in the interest of justice for the motion on notice filed by the Benue State Government to be heard urgently or given an accelerated hearing, before the next adjourned date of 22/11/2021.”
In the affidavit, the state government distanced itself from the loan facility collected from Bank PHB Plc, now known as Keystone Bank Ltd, on Jan. 31, 2008 “for the purpose of purchasing 5, 000 pieces of motorcycles to its workers through the Nigeria Labour Congress of its state vide an irrevocable standing payment order (ISPO}.”
According to the affidavit, Benue State Government did not guarantee the recovery of any contract sum in the contract between HPPS Multilink Services Nigeria Limited and the Nigeria Labour Congress.
“Benue State Government did not issue any ISPO Irrevocable Standing Payment Order – in favour of HPPS Multilink Services Nigeria Limited.
“Benue State Government was neither party nor privy to any arrangement between Bee and Bee Investment Enterprise and HPPS Multilink Services Nigeria Limited,” it read in part.
But Justice Ekwo, who noted that the order was made based on the fact that the state was owing AMCON, said he was mindful of unfreezing only the salary account of Benue workers.
He then stood down the matter to allow counsel to AMCON, Val Igboanusi and the state government’s lawyer to discuss on which account was salary account.
After the matter was called again, Pere prayed the court for a short adjournment to enable him to file an application on the salary account.
The judge, who adjourned the matter until Friday, warned that if the state government failed to resolve the matter with AMCON before Nov. 22 which was the initial adjourned date, he would make an order refreezing the account again.