•States seek stoppage of deductions from Federation Account
From GODWIN TSA, Abuja
Governors of the 36 states have dragged the Federal Government to the Supreme Court over its alleged deductions of revenue accruing to the country between 2007 till date for the purpose of funding the fuel subsidy regime. Describing the actions of the central government as an infraction and aberration of the Constitution, the 36 states are seeking for “a perpetual order of injunction restraining the Federal Government by itself, servants, agents, privies and those taking instruction from it from making any further deductions from the amount standing to the credit of the Federation
Account for the purpose of funding the payment of the fuel subsidy claims or any other purpose whatsoever, except those authorized by section 162 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” The governors are further pressing for “a restitutionary order of the Honourable Court directing the Federal Government to pay to the plaintiffs their 24% share of the total amount of money wrongly deducted by the Federal Government from the Federation Account from 2007 till date.”
This was contained in a 12-page summons filed by five states by a consortium of six lawyers including immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association [NBA], Joseph Bodunrin Daudu [SAN] and Prince Lateef Fagbemi [SAN], on behalf of the Attorneys-General of Abia State and 35 others. The fulcrum of the lawsuit is that the Federal Government lacked the constitutional powers to unilaterally make deductions from the nation’s revenue.
It is the collective position of the plaintiffs that the said deduction amounted to a usurpation of the powers of Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency [PPPRA] by giving the agency “illegal directive which made PPRA to honour unverified vouchers from importers of petroleum products to the detriment of all the plaintiffs. They listed Attorney-General of Federation [AGF] and the National Assembly as first and second defendants respectively.
The states argued that “rather than ensure that all revenue is centrally transferred from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Federation Account which is the distributable Pool, the first defendant through her agency, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) deducts without approval the so-called fuel subsidy from source as if same is a First Line Charge.”
The plaintiffs are praying the apex court to declare that “the act of the Federal Government of Nigeria in charging on the Federation Account deductions and expenses incurred by it on or to service the activities and or functions of its agencies or bodies exempted by Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 before distributing the revenue among the federal and state government and local government councils in each state is inconsistent with section 162 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999[as amended], illegal, unconstitutional, unlawful, null and void.”
Should the court be minded, they prayed it, in the alternative, to direct the Federal Government to grant them or a firm of accountants engaged by the Plaintiffs, “full and unconditional access to all accounts, books, records or other documents relating to accruals to and disbursement from the Federation Account for the period of 2007 till date.” The plaintiffs argued that “there are inaccuracies in the crude oil and gas revenues remitted to the Federation Account by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation [NNPC] caused by wrongful deductions at source by NNPC to fund her operations.”
They pointed out that whereas the practice ought to be that subsidy claims are remitted to NNPC from the Petroleum Support Fund [PSF] by the Federal Ministry of Finance based on claims of oil marketers approved by PPPRA, “NNPC’s practice is to remit to the Federation Account, amount payable for domestic crude less subsidy claim only for it [NNPC] to request the Federal Ministry of Finance to pay the amounts due on subsidy claim back into the Federation Account being the balance cost of domestic crude.