Monday, 6 May 2019

We are in arrears in salaries, pensions payments, Imo State tells court

The Imo State Government has told a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja that it was currently owing salaries and pensions.

Also, one of the state’s bankers, Zenith Bank Plc, has disclosed that it gave Imo State Government a N10billion loan in 2016, which it was yet to be fully repaid.

The information are contained in court papers filed by Imo State and Zenith Bank in reaction to a garnishee proceeding initiated against the state governor and three others by a firm, E. F. Network Nigeria Limited and Mr. Gideon Egbuchulam.

F. Network and Egbuchulam are, by the garnishee proceedings, seeking to attach all funds owned by Imo State and three others in banks, including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), for the purpose of satisfying the N1.05billion judgment given by the Supreme Court on March 8, 2019 against the state governor and three others.

The Supreme Court, in the judgment, given against the Governor of Imo State of Nigeria, the Attorney General, Environmental Transformation Committee and the Ministry of Petroleum and Environment, affirmed an earlier judgment of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the judgement given in favour of E. F. Network and Egbuchulam by a High Court of Imo State.

On April 17, 2019 Justice Bello Kawu of the High Court of the FCT,in Kubwa heard an ex-parte motion by E. F. Network and Egbuchulam and granted garnishee order nisi, ordering the 17 banks listed in the motion to show cause why the garnishee order should not be made absolute.

It is in reaction to the order of April 17 that the Imo State Government, Zenith Bank and some other banks filed affidavits, giving details of their financial dealings with the state.

In the document filed for the state and three other judgment debtors, the Attorney General, Milithus Nlemedim (SAN) prayed the court not to make absolute, the garnishee order nisi it granted on April 17 this year.

In a supporting affidavit deposed to by Christopher Izima, the judgment debtors stated that: “Imo State Government is presently in arrears of salaries and pensions of civil servants. “The grant of the garnishee will bring untold hardship to the entire citizenry and government of Imo State.
“All money’s appropriated in the Imo State Appropriation Law are in the custody of public officers.

“The judgment debtors strongly dispute the sum of money claimed as interests by the judgment debtors in this garnishee proceedings. It was not properly and correctly computed.”
They queried the competence of the garnishee proceedings, which they described as an abuse of court’s process, claiming that the judgment creditors had initiated a similar proceedings before another court.

The judgment debtors urged the court to decline jurisdiction, claiming that the applicants failed to obtain the consent of the Imo State Attorney General to initiate the garnishee proceedings.

Zenith, on its part, sought to be excused from the proceedings, claiming that the state government was indebted to it.
In an affidavit deposed to by Solomon Unamka, Zenith Bank stated that: “The 3rd garnishee (the bank) was served with an order nisi made by this honourable court on 18th April 2019.

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“Further to the service of the said order nisi, the 3rd garnishee conducted a search on its records and hereby states as follows:
“The judgment debtor, Imo State Government is heavily indebted to the 3rd garnishee to the tune of over N9,400,000,000 as it has a credit facility from the 3rd garnishee.”
Unamka said the state got an “Excess Crude Account backed loan” of N10billion from Zenith Bank on 26/01/2016, with a tenor of 240 months.

He added that Imo State also maintains with the bank, a loan account: 3700236696, with a current balance of N9,422,588,166.78.

“The balance in the account: 3700236696 cannot be attached because the 3rd garnishee has right of set off on the said account.

“The 3rd garnishee humbly seeks to be discharged from this proceedings by this honourable court,” he said.
In its response, Guaranty Trust Bank said none of the judgment debtors has account with it, but that it has an account with the name: IMSG Internally Gen Reve (IGR).

GTB stated that, although the current balance in the account was N64,997,774.44k, the money is already “subject of earlier extant garnishee orders in six other cases of the 17 banks ordered by the court to show cause, almost all of them have responded, with many claiming that the judgment debtors do not maintain accounts with them.

When the case came up on May 3, 2019, Justice Kawu agreed with Nlemedim to first hear the objection filed by the judgment debtors.

Lawyer to the applicants, Anthony Agbonlahor did not object, but sought time to reply to all the responses filed by the garnishees, particularly the objection by the judgment debtors.
Justice Kawu consequently adjourned to June 25 for the hearing of the objection.

THE NATION

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