The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has appealed the judgment of the Federal High Court, which ordered the garnishee of the sum of N38 billion belonging to the federal and 36 state governments for the payment of an alleged judgment debt.
The apex bank has, in addition, also filed a motion seeking a stay of the execution of the judgment which is in favour of a senior legal practitioner, Chief Joe Agi (SAN)
The applicant, Agi, had approached the Federal High Court for a garnishee order nisi against the CBN, Minister of Finance/Chairman Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) and the Accountant General of the Federation who were sued as 1st, 2nd and 3rd garnishees, respectively.
The request for garnishee order nisi was predicated on a judgment of the Federal High Court delivered on June 9, 2022, by Justice Taiwo Taiwo (now retired), wherein the Minister of Finance, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Attorney General of the Federation, 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 short ruling on July 22, 2022, Justice J K Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, while granting the request, ordered the garnishees to appear before the court to show cause why the garnishee order nisi should not be made absolute.
Responding, the CBN represented by the law firms 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 as well as an application urging the court to set aside the order nisi on several grounds, amongst 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, Justice Omotosho disagreed with the submissions of counsel to the judgment debtors and CBN and held that the monies standing to the credit of the judgment debtors be attached by garnishee proceedings.
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, in the appeal against the ruling of Justice Omotosho, the CBN submitted that the judgment creditor failed to obtain the consent of the AGF pursuant to Section 84 of the Sheriff’s and Civil Process Act before commencing the garnishee proceedings against the CBN.
The appellants further submitted that the garnishee proceedings is an abuse of judicial process as the plaintiff/applicant (Joe Agi, SAN) had earlier obtained a garnishee order absolute in Suit FHC/CS/1193/2017, a matter touching on the same judgment sum, for which there were appeals and a motion for stay of execution pending at the Court of Appeal and that the order nisi overreached the provisions of the Constitution.