25th September, 2012
Nnamdi Felix / Abuja
The case instituted at the Supreme Court by Nigeria’s 36 states challenging the legality of the Excess Crude Account and the decision of the Federal Government to transfer the sum of $1 billion from the account to the recently created Sovereign Wealth Funds, was on Tuesday further stalled following a passionate appeal by the Federal Government that it is genuinely committed to settling the matter out of court.
Mr. Austin Aleghe, a senior advocate of Nigeria who represented the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in the matter told a 7 man panel of the apex court led by Justice Chukwuma Eneh, that the series of attempts being made by the Federal Government aimed at resolving the dispute amicably, had started yielding fruits.
According to the lawyer, “we are happy to report that the settlement moves have started yielding results. We received only last week, a new proposed terms of settlement by the plaintiffs and the Attorney General is currently studying the new proposed terms of settlement and we believe now, more than ever before, that the settlement move is yielding very useful results”
He therefore pleaded with the court to further extend time for parties to reach an amicable resolution of the disputes and to adjourn the matter to enable them actualize the settlement process.
The case as instituted by the states is aimed at resolving the dispute over the retention of the Excess Crude Account and the transfer of $1 billion to the recently created SWF,
The governments of the 36 states had approached the to court to seek for an order compelling the Government of the Federation to pay into the Federation Account, the sum of N5.51 trillion being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007 from the proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profits tax and oil royalties.
The Federal Government had classified such earnings as “excess crude proceeds” and “excess PPT and royalties” which were paid into an account termed the “Excess Crude Account”.
The governors also want the apex court to order the Federal Government to transfer to the Federation Account all sums standing to the credit of the Excess Crude Account.
Responding to the submission of Mr. Aleghe, the led counsel to the plaintiffs, Mr. Adegboyega Awomolo, also a senior advocate of Nigeria who led the team of other senior advocates, pointed out to the court that the plaintiffs had approached the court since 2008 over the issue and that there had been discussions, offers, counter offers and moves to resolve the matter.
He expressed gladness over the expressed genuine commitment by the Federal Government to resolve the matter and promised that his team will embrace such moves.
However, Chief Awomolo reminded the court that what it had scheduled for today is for either the report of settlement or definite hearing of the matter on its merit, which according to him, he is prepared to go ahead with.
The court declined to commence hearing into the matter and observed that such a move will undermine the current attempt towards settling the matter amicably. The court also noted that delving into the substance of the case will cast doubts on the genuiness of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke’s commitment to settle the matter.
Subsequently, the court adjourned the matter to the 22nd of November for the parties to file in the report of their settlement.