Court Fixes May 24 for Suit Probing A/Ibom on 13% Derivation Refunds
Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed May 24 to hear a suit filed by a former lawyer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Nkereuwen Mark Anana, against Akwa-Ibom Governor Udom Emmanuel and two others over the spending of 13 per cent derivation refunds.
The other respondents in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/423/23, are the state’s Accountant General and the Accountant-General of the Federation, TheNation reported.
In the suit, Anana is praying the court for several reliefs, including “A declaration that by Sections 2 (3)(v) of the Freedom of Information Act, he is entitled to seek information from the Akwa Ibom State Government on the income from Internally Generated Revenue of Akwa Ibom State, Monthly Federal allocation to Akwa Ibom State, Ecological fund paid to Akwa Ibom State and 13 percent oil derivation refunds from the Federal Government of Nigeria to Akwa Ibom State Government under the leadership of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
“An order compelling the Accountant-General of the Federation, to disclose to him, in writing, the total amount of money paid as 13 per cent oil derivations refund and Federal Monthly allocation to Akwa lbom State Government, under the leadership of Udom Gabriel Emmanuel by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“An order compelling the Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, the State Accountant General, to disclose to him in writing, the total amount of money generated internally, Federal Monthly allocation from Federal Government of Nigeria and 13 per cent oll derivation refunds realized and paid to Akwa Ibom State within the dispensation of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel as Governor of Akwa lbom State.
“An order compelling the Governor of Akwa-Ibom State, the State Accountant-General, to disclose to him in writing any other money received by the State Government under the leadership of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.
“An order of the Court compelling the Governor of Akwa-ibom State, the State Accountant General, to disclose to him in writing the ‘Capital Projects’ embarked on by the government of Akwa Ibom State under the leadership of governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, the location of the projects, the cost of the projects and the contractors of those projects from inception till date.”
Akwa-Ibom State Government in it’s counter-affidavit to the suit, deposed to by one Donald Essien, a lawyer, stated that the plaintiff is vested with the facts and/or knowledge regarding the 13 percent derivation refund as the said information is already available in the public domain and would know this if he carried out proper research or followed the affairs of the Akwa-lbom State Government before instituting this instant suit.
He stated that the first defendant never hid any fact regarding the 13 per cent oil derivation refund from the people of Akwa-lbom State as the said information has been consistently included in the yearly Approved Recurrent and Capital Expenditure Budget Estimate of the State since 2021, adding that it was also included in the published Report of the Accountant general with Audited Financial Statements.
The deponent stated that “the mere fact that Governor Nyesom Wike made a statement at the Nigerian Law School opening ceremony if at all, does not establish that the first defendant kept this fact hidden from the people of Akwa-lbom State, as the first defendant had already brought it to the knowledge of the public since 2021 and was captured in the Approved Budget Estimate of 2021 by the Ministry of Finance, under Capital receipt as “other exceptional income: 13 percent Derivation Revenue arrears and others”.
He stated further that the purpose of instituting the plaintiff’s suit was solely to “embarrass, frustrate and annoy the first defendant as the information which the plaintiff seeks is already available in the public domain as published by the first defendant in the Akwa-lbom State Audited Financial Statements of 2021 under the heading ‘Other Capital Receipts’ and clearly detailed as “Refunds, Donations and other exceptional income”.
The deponent who said he was an indigene of Ukanafun Local Government Area of Akwa-lbom State, stated further that the information was brought to the knowledge of the plaintiff by the Accountant General of the Federation in its response letter to the plaintiff, intimated him to access the requested information from its official website: www.oagf.gov.ng.
The deponent, who described most of the plaintiff’s averment as untrue, stated that the first defendant has no reason and/or plans to run away with the resources of Akwa-lbom State, his administration has been very transparent and accountable right from inception. As such, there is no need for him to be compelled to release any information because he was not withholding any information from the plaintiff and other members of the public.
Also the third defendant, the Accountant-General of the Federation in its counter-affidavit deposed to by one of its litigation officers, Adeleke Sunday, stated that the plaintiff, as claimed in his affidavit, never made any request to the third defendant.
He stated that though, the third defendant actually received a letter of request from the plaintiff, the said letter is dated December 6, 2023, even though, they applied in a future and none existence date.
“Going by the 2023 calendar we are six months away to getting to December 6, 2023, the date the plaintiff wrote to the third defendant for a request for information on fund paid to the Akwa Ibom State Government from 2015 till date under the leadership of Governor Udom Gabriel Emmanuel.”
He also averred that the plaintiff commenced an action against the third defendant even before the alleged offence.
He stated that the discrepancies in date by the plaintiff, is a clear indication that the plaintiff is a confused witness and looking for an avenue to make money from the third defendant.
He averred that the plaintiff has brought a frivolous action before the court, and was not entitled to the declaratory reliefs as stated in his originating summons, having filled an incompetent action before this court.
He consequently urged the court to dismiss plaintiff’s suit for being an abuse of court process, incompetent and lacking in merit, and award a N1 million cost as damages in favour of the third defendant.
While Justice Tijjani G. Ringim, has fixed May 24, for hearing of the suit, the second defendant, the State’s Accountant-General, is yet to file any response to the suit.