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FG briefs Supreme Court on inability to settlement dispute over Excess Crude Account, Sovereign Wealth Fund with states
By Theo Adegoke
March 24, 2014 21:25:09pm GMT
Justice Maryam Aloma Mukhtar

WorldStage Newsonline-- The Federal Government on Monday briefed the Supreme Court about its inability to reach an amicable settlement with governors of the 36 states in the dispute over the maintenance of the Excess Crude Account and its plan to move $1 billion from the account for the establishment of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).

Lawyer to the Federal Government, Austin Alegeh told the court that  the office of the Vice President, saddled with the co-ordination of the settlement meeting, briefed him that the settlement has failed to yield any desired result.

The court had delayed hearing in the case to enable parties explore the out-of-court settlement option.

Alegeh informed the court about his intention to amend his statement of defence in view of the failure of the effort to ensure amicable settlement.

"I have not been part of that meeting when the settlement talk was on going, we did not amend our statement of defence. The need to amend it has arisen due to the collapse of settlement talk," he said.

He urged the court to direct the plaintiffs to provide him with their amended statements of claim to enable him amend his statement of defence accordingly.

Reacting, a lawyer to the governors, Yusuf Ali (SAN), though did not oppose Alegeh's request, however noted that the information which the defendant required were already  included in the papers the plaintiffs filed before the court.

He said his clients last met with the Federal Government in 2011 as part of the settlement efforts, and that the meeting yielded no result.

Ali wondered why the defendant was just coming in 2014 to amend its defence. He described the move as a delay effort intended to delay hearing in the suit.

He also argued that the defendant's request to be allowed to amend its defence now was an abuse of court process.

Ruling, Justice Walter Onnoghen (who presided) granted that defendant's request to amend his defence.

He ordered the plaintiffs to supply, within seven days, all additional information required by the defendant, and that the defendant should, within 21 days, file his amended statement of defence

He adjourned to September 23 for further hearing.

The governors had sued, seeking among others, an order compelling the Government of the Federation to pay into the Federation Account N5.51 trillion being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007 from the proceeds of crude oil sales, Petroleum Profits Tax (PPT) and oil royalties.

The governors also wants the court to order the federal government to transfer to the Federation Account all sums standing to the credit of the Excess Crude Account.

In its defence, the Federal Government accused the states of mischief on the ground that they took part in the deliberation of the National Economic Council (NEC) where the decision to transfer the $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to the SWF was taken.

It added that the states had also been receiving their shares from the money and accused them of insincerity.

The defendant therefore urged the court to refuse the plaintiffs' prayers.

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