Court threatens to freeze Adamawa govt’s salary accounts over N84m debt

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A Federal High Court, Abuja, has threatened to grant an Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) suit, seeking an order to freeze the Adamawa State Government’s salary accounts over inability to pay back N84 million loan six years after borrowing.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, in a ruling, gave the state government until Jan. 11, 2022, to settle the issue with AMCON.

Justice Ekwo said he was mindful to grant a plea by counsel to the state government, Fabaryu Thliza, due to the vast majority of the civil servants who might be affected by the order, especially as Christmas celebration draws near.

“This adjournment is at the instance of the defendant and a gracious adjournment to allow them pay the staff for Christmas. This shall be the last adjournment,” the judge warned.

He then adjourned the matter until Jan. 11, 2022, for report of settlement or hearing. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that AMCON, in a writ of summons marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/387/2021 dated and filed on June 24, had sued the governor of Adamawa and the, Attorney-General (AG) as 1st and 2nd defendants.

Also Joined in the suit include the Commissioner of Health, Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Health as 3rd to 5th defendants respectively.

AMCON, through his lawyer, Paul Okache, had alleged that the 5th defendant (Ministry of Health) sometimes in July, 2015 approached a bank for an overdraft facility when it was in dire need of financial assistance.

He said after several appeal, the Union Bank eventually raised the overdraft facility. He told the court that despite several demands by the bank, the facility and the accrued interest had remained unpaid.

Respondents thereafter engaged the services of Abbas El-Yakub & Co. to among other things demand payment of the facility.

NAN reports that Justice Ekwo had, on June 24, granted AMCON’s ex-parte application seeking an interlocutory order to freeze the respondents/debtors accounts in not less than 17 commercial banks.

But the state government had filed a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter, saying such case should be filed at the state where the cause of action took place.

The judge had given them a time to resolve the matter and adjourned the matter.

At the resumed proceeding, Okache told the court that the settlement option had failed as there was no seriousness on the part of the defendants.

The lawyer to the state government, Thliza, explained that the settlement process was ongoing and a five-man committee had been constituted by her client.

“We could not call the claimant because we are yet to finish with terms of settlement,” she said.

The judge then asked her the date of the last sitting.“It was Oct. 6 my lord,” she said.“You think this is a joke? Tell me why I should not take the application of the plaintiff,” Ekwo said.

Thliza, however, begged the court to give her client more time to engage in the terms of settlement.

“I give you for this Christmas so that the salaries of staff can be paid. I give you until Jan. 11,” the judge said.

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