Buhari Seeks N’Assembly Approval to Pay Aggrieved Investors N544bn
President Muhammadu Buhari has written to the National Assembly to seek approval for payment of judgment debts owed by the Federal Government to the tune of $566.7 million, £98.5m and N226.2 billion.
The request is coming five days before the end of the Buhari administration.
The debt when converted to naira using the official dollar rate of N460.78 and N574.3 for pounds amounted to N544bn.
In a letter addressed to the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Buhari said the government would make the payment through the dispensation of promissory notes.
Lawan read out the outgoing President’s letter to senators at the replete on Wednesday.
The letter read in part: “The distinguished Senate President may wish to be informed that the Federal Executive Council, at its meeting of March 29, 2023, approved the liquidations of top priority judgment debts and general judgment debts owed by ministries, departments and agencies through the issuance of promissory notes.
“The judgment debts are to be settled through the issuance of promissory notes, which will then be redeemed over time through provisions in the budgets of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Thus, debt securities have been issued for the settlement of the judgment debts and approval of the National Assembly is required for this purpose.
“In view of the foregoing, I wish to request the Senate to kindly consider and approve through its resolution the settlement of the top priority judgement debts and general judgment debts incurred by Federal MDAs in the sum of USD566,754,584.31, £98,526,012.00 and N226,281,801,881.64 through the issuance of promissory notes.
“The Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; and the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning shall provide any information that may be required by the Senate for the consideration of this request.”
But Emeka Obegolu, SAN, expressed the view that the government’s obedience to orders of the court should go beyond those that involved monetary judgments.
He said obedience to the court should extend to other judgments such as those bordering on the fundamental human rights of citizens.
“Monetary judgments are not the only judgments; we urge the government to look into their books and obey orders of courts, whether monetary judgments or injunctive orders without any attempt to subject it to the whims and caprices of the executive.”
Besides, he said outstanding judgments which have not been set aside or which the appeal process had been exhausted ought to be obeyed immediately “unless the judgment debtor is unable to pay for reasons which have to be disclosed.”
Speaking further, Obegolu noted, “If the government has woken up to their obligation to respect the court as an institution of government, we should thank God that as lawyers we are witnessing obedience to orders of the court.”
Weighing in, Bode Olanikpekun, SAN said the orders of the court ought to be obeyed once they were certified to exist.
He advised the government to develop a strategy to handle such liabilities.
He further averred that government is a continuum and if liabilities are left unsettled now, they would have to be dealt with in future.
“Government needs to develop a strategy or plan as to how those liabilities will be met because the liabilities will remain if not set aside or upturned will have to be settled.”
On his part, the decision, even though it is executed at the last minute, is welcomed said by Kunle Adegoke SAN
“The issue may be why at the last minute? That may not be too important so far these are legitimate judgments of the court,’’ he pointed out.
Besides, he maintained that if there is any suspicion of underhand or shady practices concerning the development, the anti-corruption agencies would handle such an issue.