Court gives Kano State Govt 7 days to respond to claims by 44 LGAs

Abba Kabir Yusuf

Kano governor Abba Kabir Yusuf

By Taiye Agbaje

A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, gave Kano State government a seven-day ultimatum to show cause why the ex-parte orders sought by the 44 local government areas (LGAs) of the state should not be granted.

Justice Donatus Okorowo gave the order, in a ruling, shortly after counsel for the plaintiffs and lawyers to the defendants presented their arguments for and against the application.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Okorowo had, on Dec. 28, 2023, declined to grant the application seeking to bar Gov. Abba Yusuf of Kano State from disbursing or spending funds and allocations belonging to the 44 LGGs.

The judge, rather, ordered the defendants to appear before him on Jan. 3 to show cause why the restraining orders should not be granted.

He equally granted the plaintiffs’ plea for an order of substituted service on the defendants.

The ex-parte motion, marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1733/2023, was filed by the 44 LGAs and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Kano State Chapter on Dec. 27, 2023.

In the suit, Kano State government, the Kano State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice and the state’s Accountant-General were sued as 1st to 3rd defendants respectively.

They had prayed to the court for an order restraining the defendants/respondents from controlling, managing, further administering, disbursing and spending the funds and allocations belonging to the 44 LGAs of Kano State in the Kano State Joint Local Account, pending the hearing and determination of the plaintiffs’ substantive suit.

Upon resumed hearing on Wednesday, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Ibrahim Nasarawa, informed the court that the matter was adjourned for the defendants to show cause why the interim orders should not be granted.

Nasarawa said the defendants were served in line with the court order but they had failed to file their processes to show cause within the three days prescribed by the rule of the court.

The lawyer, therefore, prayed the court to grant the orders sought in their ex-parte motion following Order 26, Rule 11 of the FHC.

But Hafeez Matanmi, who appeared for the 1st and 2nd defendants, disagreed with Nasarawa’s submission.

He told the court that he was only briefed the previous day (Tuesday) by his clients and had filed a memorandum of conditional appearance today (Wednesday).

Matanmi, who said that Nasarawa was served with the application earlier in the morning, stated that he had yet to see all the plaintiffs’ processes in the matter.

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He argued that he could not have put up a defence in the case without seeing the processes filed, including the motion on notice and the orders.

He said there was no way he could show cause without seeing all the processes including the motion on notice as well as the orders.

Matanmi also argued that the rules of the court cited by Nasarawa did not specify the number of days to show cause, urging the court to adjourn the matter for them to respond accordingly.

Besides, he argued that even if he had three days to show cause, his clients were still within time to respond due to the public holidays.

3rd defendant’s lawyer, Okechukwu Edeze, aligned himself with Matanmi’s submission while informing the court about his memorandum of conditional appearance.

Edeze, who said he was briefed about the case less than 24 hours ago, sought an adjournment in the interest of fair hearing.

“I have not seen the processes of this court. Only God knows the truth,” Edaeze said.

But Nasarawa countered them, insisting that they had been duly served.

“If they chose not to (show cause), it is to their detriment,” Nasarawa said, urging the court to discountenance their arguments.

Delivering the ruling, Justice Okorowo held that though records showed that the defendants were duly served with the processes on Dec. 29, 2023, he agreed with defence counsel that the three-day timeframe outlined for the defendants to respond was affected by public holidays.

The judge also held that the memorandum of conditional appearance by the respondents suggested they planned to challenge the suit.

He said though Order 26, Rule 11 gave a time frame which should not be less than three days for defendants to respond, he observed that by Order 26, Rule 15 of the court, the court was empowered to either discharge the order or make order absolute or modify the earlier order made.

According to him, the provision gives the court the discretion to vary or extend the order.

Justice Okorowo consequently gave the defendants seven days to show cause why the ex-parte orders should not be granted.

He adjourned the matter until Jan. 11 for hearing of the matter.

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