4th June, 2023
By Taiye Agbaje
Gov. Seyi Makinde of Oyo State has sought for a review of a judgment of the Supreme Court to pay the salaries and allowances of local government chairmen and councilors he sacked upon assuming office on May 29, 2019.
Makinde, in a fresh motion and notice of appeal before the Appeal Court, Abuja, urged the court to reverse the order.
The governor filed the applications along with the Oyo State Attorney General and five others.
In both fillings, Makinde and other applicants want the appellate court, to among others, reverse the orders of April 27 made by Justice A. O. Ebong of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in furtherance of the Supreme Court judgment given on May 7, 2021 in the appeal marked: SC.CV/556/2021.
The ex-LG officials, led by Bashorun Mojeed Ajuwan, had successful challenged their sacked up to the Supreme Court.
The apex court had, on May 7, 2021 in a judgment, declared Makinde’s sack of the council officials less than 19 months into their three-year tenure, as unlawful.
In the judgment, the Supreme Court ordered that the salaries and allowances that “they (the sacked LG officials) were each entitled to, be paid for the balance of the period from 29th May 2019 (when Makinde sacked them) ending on 11th May 2032 when the respective tenures they were elected for would end.”
The apex court added that the 1st defendant/respondent (Makinde) “shall forthwith, pay the said salaries and allowances of the claimants/appellants as ordered.”
For his unlawful act, the apex court awarded N20 million cost against Makinde, in favour of the sacked LG officials.
It further ordered the state’s AG to file, “on or before 7th August, 2021 an affidavit (under the hand of the incumbent of the office) attesting to the payment of the said salaries and allowances” as ordered by the court in its judgment.
Reacting to Makinde’s fresh motion and notice of appeal, Ajuwon and other sacked LG officials accused the governor of a ploy to undermine the Supreme Court judgment.
They claimed that Makinde’s decision to approach to Appeal Court, was aimed at sustaining his alleged vow not to comply with the apex court judgment, except the sacked LG officials, who are members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) decamp to his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Makinde had, following the Supreme Court judgment, agreed to pay the unlawfully sacked LG officials a total of N4,874,889,425.60 (about N4.9 billion), out of which it paid only N1.5 million in 2022, leaving N3,374,889,425.60 (about N3.4 billion) outstanding.
Instead of paying the outstanding judgment debt of N3.4b, he applied to the High Court of the FCT, in a motion he filed on April 3 praying to be allowed to pay the outstanding judgment debt in instalment of N300m every six months, a proposal Ajuwon and the other judgment creditors objected to.
However, in a ruling on April 27, Justice Ebong granted Makinde’s prayer to pay in instalment, but varied his payment plan, on the grounds that, if allowed to pay the way he proposed, it would take him six years to fully defray the debt.
Justice Ebong said: “That does not appear reasonable to me given the current Nigerian economic situation, characterised by dwindling resources and high inflation.
“There is every reason to believe that the value of the judgment debt would be substantially lost to inflation if left to be paid over a six-year period as proposed by the applicants (Makinde, the AG, and others officials of the state).
“To compound the unfairness of the proposed terms, the applicants (Makinde and others) have not explained to this court why they moved away from their commitment in Exhibit BOS1 to pay off the outstanding judgment sum within six months from 23th December 2021.”
Justice Ebong proceeded to order one of Oyo State’s bankers, First Bank of Nigeria, to immediately pay Ajuwon and others N1,374,889,425.60 (about N1.4 billion) and to pay the remaining balance of N2 billion in instalment of N500 million every six months, with the first instalment payable on July 31, 2023.
It is this ruling that Makinde has appealed against and applied to be stayed in a notice of appeal and motion on notice filed recently before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
In the motion, he is praying the appellate court to among others, stay the execution of the judgment pending the determination of the appeal.
In the notice of appeal, Makinde wants the court to reverse the ruling, arguing that the state has no resources to pay as ordered by the court.
He stated that Oyo State would be unable to meet its obligations should the order be executed as made.
But, in their counter-affidavit to the motion by Makinde, Ajuwon and others, who also filed a cross-appeal, faulted the governor’s claim, stating that the Oyo Sate has the capacity to pay the debt, having not shown by credible documentary evidence that it was bankrupt.
They added that Makinde “had vowed not to pay us (the judgment creditors) our outstanding entitlements as long as he remains the Governor of Oyo State, because we did not cross to his political party.
“The appellants/applicants (Makinde and others) are blowing hot and cold at the same time, because while, in their notice of appeal, they are contending that the judgment sum is not ascertainable, in another breath, and by this application, they are praying to pay the outstanding judgment sum of N3,374,889,425,60 on an installmental basis of N300 million every six months.
“The appellants/applicants have consistently showed by their conduct that they do not have any iota of respect for the entire judiciary. In fact, the apex court, in its judgment delivered in our favour on 7th May, 2021, condemned this attitude of lack of respect for the judiciary by the appellants/applicants.”
The court of appeal of has fixed June 8 for hearing in the appeal.