25 September 2012

Nigeria: Supreme Court Fixes Nov.21 for FG, States to Resolve N5.5 Trillion Sovereign Wealth Funds Dispute

Photo: Vanguard
President Goodluck Jonathan with Governors.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday fixed Nov. 21 for the federal and state governments to brief it on the out-of-court settlement option over the one billion dollars (N5.5 trillion) Sovereign Wealth Funds controversy.

Justice Christopher Chukwuma-Ene gave the date after parties had briefed the court on the latest steps toward amicable settlement of the matter.

"The court shall for the last time indulge parties with the application for adjournment filed by the defendant.

"This matter is, therefore, adjourned to Nov. 21 for parties to brief the court on the finality of the settlement option.

"The court shall, however, commence hearing of the case if agreement was not reached on that date," he said.

Earlier, Mr Austin Alegeh (SAN), counsel to the defendant (Federal Government), said his client required a short adjournment to understudy the fresh proposal for a new term of settlement issued to it by the plaintiffs (36 states).

"We need to study the new proposal because it contains fresh items that need to be investigated. We are praying that agreement could be reached because my client is amenable to the out-of-court settlement," he said.

Chief Andrew Awomolo (SAN), counsel to the states, however, urged the court to make the adjournment the last one on the matter.

"The court should open argument on the case if parties failed to agree before the date," Awomolo said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that attempts to settle the matter out of court by parties had failed since the plaintiffs approached the court in 2011.

The states had challenged the legality of the Excess Crude Account and the decision to transfer the sum from the account to the Sovereign Wealth Funds.

The states had sought an order compelling the Federal Government to pay into the Federation Account the sum, being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007.

The funds were proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profits tax and oil royalties.

The defendant had classified such earnings as "excess crude proceeds" and "excess PPT and royalties", which were paid into an account termed the "Excess Crude Account."

The states further asked the court to order the defendant to transfer to the Federation Account all sums standing to the credit of the Excess Crude Account.


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