Federal Government directive to the Debt Management Office (DMO) to issue promissory notes to governments’ contractors and consultants is in bad faith, governors said on Thursday. The chief executive officers under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) asked Finance, Budget, and National Planning Minister Hajia Zainab Ahmed to withdraw the order pending the determination of processes they filed in a court.
The NGF made the request through a letter by their counsel, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN).
The letter, dated August 30, was titled: “Re: Liquidation of judgment debts on behalf of federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), states and local government councils; authorisation to issue promissory notes in favour of judgment creditors; and protest against your attempt to foist a fait accompli on the court.”
The letter reads in part: “We are amazed to note that despite the service of these processes as well as hearing notice on your office, your permanent secretary acting under your instruction, directed the Debt Management office (DMO) to issue promissory notes to contractors and consultants, whose claims are still being challenged and contested in court.
“As you already know, these promissory notes your office is directing the DMO to issue to these contractors and consultants are to be deducted over a period of 10 years from statutory allocations due to the states of the federation.
“We therefore find it not only curious, but an action in bad taste for your office to issue a directive through your Permanent Secretary to the DMO to issue promissory notes to contractors and consultants whose claims are being contested by the tiers of government, who would ultimately bear the brunt of repaying these debts.”
The governors questioned the minister’s “interest in having contractors and consultants paid with issuance of promissory notes when the various judgments of courts of first instance are being challenged and contested on appeal by the tiers of government, whose statutory allocations would be deducted to defray these bogus amounts of money your office is illegally authorising their payments.”
They added: “We hold the strong view that this in itself is the height of corruption and lawlessness. If one may ask, what is the special interest of the Ministry of Finance in directing expeditious payment of disputed claims to individual contractors and consultants in the face of valid court processes challenging the decisions of courts of first instance upon which these claims are based?”
They also drew the minister’s attention to their earlier letter challenging the decisions of the court relating to, or connected with payments of legal and consultancy fees arising from London Club Debt Buy-Back and London Club Debt Exit Payment, which form the fulcrum of the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
According to the governors, the minister’s office was duly served with the court processes seeking for stay of execution of, and/or injunction restraining the office and others from further enforcing the judgment.
The letter further states: “We need to inform you of your sacred duty of staying action on this matter in view of the injunctive reliefs sought in the processes duly filed in court on these matters.
“It is the law that once an application for injunctive reliefs (such as the one filed by us and already fixed for hearing) is pending in a court of law, parties are barred from engaging in any act that would foist a fiat accompli on the Court in respect of that application, or action.
“We kindly refer you to the authoritative pronouncement of the Supreme Court in the famous case of The Military Governor of Lagos State & Ors v. Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu & Anor (1986) 1 NWLR (Pt. 18) 621 @ 636 where it was held that :
“Once a dispute has arisen between a person and the government or authority and the dispute has been brought before the court, thereby invoking the judicial powers of the state, it is the duty of the government to allow the law to take its full course for the legal and judicial process to run its full course.”
By Adebisi Onanuga,