How High Court Judge Provided Legal Cover For Adoke, Okonjo-Iweala To Divert $1.6billion LG Funds
In what were two decidedly fraudulent court judgments, Justice AFA Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, provided a legal cover for Mr. Mohammed Adoke, former Attorney-General of the Federation and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance, to fraudulently divert the sum of $1.6billion meant for the 774 local government councils in the country.
The judgments, exclusively obtained by SaharaRepoters, was in the suit ( No FHC/ABJ/129/2013), filed on 11 June 2013, at the Federal High Court, Abuja. In the suit, Aba North Local Government, some other local councils (applicants) and Linas International Limited (creditor) sued the Attorney-General of the Federation, Ministry of Finance and Accountant-General of the Federation over the illegal deductions, totaling $3.2billion, made by the Federal Government from the statutory allocations due to the councils in respect of the 1992 London Club Debt buy-back and the 2006 London Club Debit exit championed by Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala.
Specifically, the plaintiffs were challenging a decision taken by the Federal Government in 1992, when the action was based on the 1999 Constitution, which did not become operational until seven years after the decision. The suit also challenged the fact that the decision of the Federal Government was taken 21 years earlier.
But in his judgment, delivered on March 27, 2015, Justice Ademola directed the Federal Government to pay the sum of $3, 188, 079,505.96 to the respondents/judgment creditors. In another suit between the same parties (FHC/ABJ/CS/130/20130), Justice Ademola ordered Linas International Limited, consultants to the local councils, to be paid.
According to the judgment, Linas International Limited is entitled to the payment of consultancy fees of N1million per local council plus 20 percent of every refund made or to be made to each council in respect of the settlement of the Paris Club debt. The payment, ruled the trial judge, should be made whether the refunds were made to the councils or through any of their agents or agencies, including the Accountant-General of the Federation (4th respondent).
Similarly, he declared that the 2nd and 3rd respondents (Attorney-General and Minister of Finance respectively) are entitled to deduct money from source and pay to Linas International Limited, through its lawyer, all consultancy fees due to all local councils in the country on account of funds from the Excess Crude Account that the Federal Government used in the settlement of Paris Club debt.
Also, Justice Ademola gave an order compelling Attorney-General and Minister of Finance (2nd and 3rd respondents) to deduct from source and pay to the Linas International through his lawyer, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN), all consultancy fees.
Also, the trial judge, through an injunction, restrained the Attorney-General and Minister of Finance from further releasing funds to the councils until all consultancy fees have been deducted at source and paid to Linas International Limited via the account of its lawyer with Skye Bank Plc. ( Sort Code 076151019 – Account No: 1060003931.)
In the Order of Garnishee issued by Justice Ademola, he directed that payment be made to companies and individuals that include Phil-Tech Nigeria Limited ($157,755,935.56 via First Bank of Nigeria A/C No: 2025939578), Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($1,354,933.78 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C 0051329942), Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo ($239,105.96 via First Bank A/C 2025921142) and Riok Nigeria Limited ($315,619,871.1 via FBN Plc A/C 2025947832).
Similarly ordered to be paid were Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($2,709,867.67 via Diamond Bank A/C 0051329942), Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo ($478,211.92 via FBN Plc A/C 2025921142), XI Nigeria Limited ($154,621,856.128 via GTB A/C No:0022764433), Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($4,064,801.37 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C 0051329942), Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo $17,317.80 via FBN A/C2025921142), Snecou Group of Companies Limited ($157,755,935.56 via UBA A/C No: 300093201) and Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu ($1,354,933.78 via Diamond Bank Plc A/C 0051329942).
The others were Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo ($239,105.96 via FBN A/C2025921142), Wells Procurement Services Limited ($318,807,950.596 being 10% of the judgment sum), Systematic Engineering Limited ( $156,215,601.79 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C No: 0054426581) and, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu the sum of ($3,188,073.50 via Diamond Bank Plc. A/C 0051329942).
Curiously, the respondents in the suit neither filed an appeal against the judgment nor bring the judgment sum to the notice of the Federal Executive Council. Instead, Adoke, using the fiat of the Attorney-General, gave consent to the payment of the judgment debt, while Okonjo-Iweala authorised the payment of the sum to consultants whereas no local government was ever paid a dime. So many of the persons and companies paid through the phoney judgement were never parties in the lawsuit.
The dodgy nature of the judgment and subsequent payment of the judgment sum recently sparked a demand by the Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), an anti-corruption coalition, that it should be investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In a petition addressed to the Commission, CSNAC said out of the judgment sum of $3.2 billion, $1.6 billion has been paid to the applicants. The coalition explained that through its private investigation, it discovered that $1.6 billion was paid into Agi’s Skye Bank account (No is 10060003931), with the sort code No is 076151019.
CSNAC observed that even the Debt Management Office (DMO) considered the judgment bizarre and disapproved of the decision to honor it. The disapproval, said CSNAC, was conveyed in its letter to the Office of Accountant General of the Federation, in which it counseled against the payment of claims by Linas International Limited.
Dated July 12, 2012 ( No: DMO/DRS/01/057/11/430), the letter pointed out to Adoke the legal error in challenging an action taken seven years before the 1999 Constitution became operational. Similarly, the coalition noted that the repayment, made in 1995, was under a unitary structure operated by a military government, under which matters affecting state and local governments were taken at the federal level.
Despite these observations by the DMO, the Office of the Attorney-General added CSNAC, went ahead to give consented to the payment of the judgment sum from government accounts via its letter ( Reference no: HAGF/CJD/2014/VOL. II/357) dated March 24, 2015) four days before the Presidential Elections.
“It was on the basis of the fraudulent consent that the sum of $1.6 billion was paid and shared by the criminal suspects,” CNSAC noted.
CSNAC also observed that despite the Federal High Court ordering that the judgment sum be used to provide security and mobile health care facilities in each of the 774 local councils, $1.6 billion of it was illegally diverted, adding that the illegal payments were not reported at any of the meetings of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) and the National Economic Council (NEC).
From both judgments, according to CSNAC, Justice Ademola awarded N774 million to the consultant as consultancy fees and another 20 percent of all recovered funds as consultancy fees to him in the second suit.
It also observed that Justice Ademola ordered that the remaining fund be paid to companies and individuals, who were not parties to either of the two suits.
The coalition claimed that Joe Agi, the lawyer who filed the case, is a friend/lawyer to Justice Ademola and actually represented the judge pro bono during his investigation for judicial misconduct by the National Judicial Council (NJC).