The 36 State Governments in Nigeria have filed a suit at the Supreme Court against the Federal Government over its alleged failure to remit funds and other recovered assets into the federation account.
The suit dated March 9, 2021 with number SC/395/2021 was filed on June 16, 2021 on behalf of the plaintiffs and has Attorney General of the Federation as the sole defendant.
The plaintiffs, who comprise the Attorney General of Abia State and other states’ attorneys general, accused the Federal Government that forfeitures by local and international fraudsters between 2015 till date totalling the sum of N1.8 trillion cash, 167 properties, 450 cars, 300 trucks and cargoes and 20 million barrels of crude oil worth about N450 billion, were unlawfully appropriated by it even when the assets legally belong to all tiers of government.
A copy of the suit filed by the plaintiffs challenging the central government’s alleged unlawful acts, showed that some issues raised for determination by the apex court include whether by sections 162 and 80 of the Constitution assets confiscated; and whether recovered or forfeited to the Federal Republic of Nigeria constitute revenues payable to the federation account instead of the consolidated revenue account of the federal government.
Also, the state governments are asking the apex court to determine whether by the constitutional provisions mentioned above, revenues accruing to the federation can be appropriated and applied by the President through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning or any other ministry or agency without due allocation from the federation account and the approval of the National Assembly.
In the event the issues raised by them are decided by the Supreme Court in the affirmative, the plaintiffs want the court to declare “that by the provisions of Section 162(1) and Section 162(10) of the Constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), all income, returns, proceeds or receipts howsoever described derived from confiscated, forfeited and/or recovered assets constitute revenue of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, which must be remitted to federation account for the collective benefit of the federal, state and local governments.”
Similarly, the plaintiffs want the court to declare that “the failure and/or refusal of President Muhammadu Buhari, the minister of finance, the office of the AGF, and the accountant-general of the federation, and all other relevant authorities and/or agencies of the federation to remit the receipts, income, returns or proceeds derived from all assets recovered, seized, confiscated and forfeited into the federation account to be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution” is unconstitutional.
“A Declaration that it is unconstitutional for the president, through the federal minister of finance, the AGF, or any other authority whatsoever, to utilise, apply, allocate, expend and appropriate same to itself or distribute same in any other manner howsoever without due allocation from the federation account”.
In a 71 paragraphs affidavit deposed to in support of the originating summons, plaintiffs claimed that they had been denied their share of the recovered funds and assets based on distributions to them from the federation account.
The 36 state governments also submitted that the establishment of the “asset tracing, recovery and management regulation 2019” done by the president through the AGF, contradicts the provisions of the constitution, and that the Attorney General of the Federation beyond his constitutional powers.
The affidavit deposed to by the Director General of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Mr. Asishana Okauru, on behalf of the plaintiffs alleged that the recovered assets had not been accounted for by the Federal Government, pointing out that it is in the interest of equity and fiscal federalism that the said assets already appropriated by the Federal Government are recovered.
The plaintiffs are seeking an order of the Supreme Court directing the President, Finance Minister, Accountant General of the Federation, and all other relevant authorities “to give account of all the receipts, income, returns or proceeds derived from all assets recovered, seized, confiscated and/or forfeited to the federal republic of Nigeria in the sum of N1,836,906,543,658.73 (cash) and N450,000,000,000.00 (non-cash)”.
“An order directing the earlier mentioned persons to reconcile accounts of all the receipts, income, returns or proceeds derived from all assets recovered, seized, confiscated and forfeited to the federal republic of Nigeria in the sum of N1,836,906,543,658.73 (Cash) and N450,000,000,000.00 (non-cash), and remit same forthwith into the federation account,” the document reads.
“An order directing the president, the minister of finance, the Office of the AGF, the accountant-general of the federation and the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission, to determine forthwith, the modalities for distributing the receipts from seized, forfeited and recovered assets among the federal, state and local government from the federation account.
“An order directing that any sum due to the federal government from the federation account should be set off against and to the full extent of any component of the receipts, income, return or proceeds derived from all assets recovered, seized, confiscated, and/or forfeited to the federal republic of Nigeria in the sum of N1,836,906,543,658.73 (Cash) and N450,000,000,000.00 (Non-cash), which has been utilised, applied and/or expended by the federal government without due allocation/distribution.”