The Court of Appeal in Abuja has upheld the decision of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), directing Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, to pay the outstanding balance of N3,374,889,425.60 (N3.4b) from a N4,874,889,425.60 (N4.9b) debt emanating from a Supreme Court judgment on May 7, 2021.
The debt resulted from the Supreme Court’s ruling against Makinde, the state’s Attorney General, Accountant General, and four others, in an appeal by chairmen and councillors elected on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform but dismissed by Makinde upon assuming office on May 29, 2019.
In a unanimous judgment, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal criticized Makinde’s conduct, deeming it disrespectful to the nation’s judicial system.
The court rejected the appeal filed by Makinde and six others, affirming the High Court’s decision.
The appellate court ordered Makinde and the appellants to pay N50 million in costs to the ex-council chiefs led by Bashorun Mojeed Bosun Ajuwon.
Justice Danlami Senchi, delivering the lead judgment, dismissed the appellants’ contention that there was a dispute over the amount constituting the judgment debt.
He referenced a letter from the Attorney General of Oyo State, dated December 13, 2021, confirming the debt amount and the state’s commitment to settling it within six months.
The judge criticized the appellants for claiming the debt was unascertained while acknowledging the state’s steps to make partial payments.
Justice Senchi also rejected the argument that the ex-council chiefs needed the consent of the Oyo State Attorney General to initiate a garnishee proceeding, stating that requiring consent would make him a judge in his own case, which is unfair to the judgment creditors.
The Supreme Court’s May 7, 2021 judgment declared the ex-council chiefs’ dismissal as unlawful and ordered the Oyo State Government to pay their entitled salaries and allowances within three months.
The government paid only N1.5b, prompting the ex-council chiefs to initiate a garnishee proceeding.
In the April 27 ruling, the High Court of the FCT issued a garnishee order absolute, directing Makinde and others to pay the balance in installments. The Court of Appeal affirmed this decision, rejecting Makinde’s challenge.
This development marks a significant legal verdict, reinforcing the obligation for the Oyo State government to settle the outstanding debt to the dismissed council officials, and the imposed fine underscores the gravity of the court’s dissatisfaction with the conduct of Governor Makinde and the other appellants.
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