A gloomy Christmas in Benue because a court order prevents the government from paying salaries

Samuel Ortom

Peter Duru – Makurdi

The High Court in Abuja, presided over by Judge KN Ogbonnaya, issued a garnishment order against the state funds of the state of Benue on all state accounts and the accounts of its members due to the adjudicated debt of 1.148 billion.

The order affected 23 bank accounts managed by the state government and its parastates in seven commercial banks.

Speaking to reporters in Makurdi on Thursday about developments, Information Commissioner Ms. Ngunan Addingi and his colleague at the Ministry of Justice, Micheal Gusa, said the order crippled all activities in the state.

The warrant is a follow-up to a lawsuit filed by Julianna Igweka and 95 other people in court against the Benue State Universal Primary Education Committee and the state prosecutor.

It was said that the applicants had applied to the court for permission to enforce the judgment of the Benue State High Court in application no. MHC / 227/2007.

Ms. Addingi explained that the matter arose when in 2007 elected members of the indigenous population of the State Board for Universal Primary Education were written and asked to return to their states and be absorbed into their civil service.

She said: “The affected persons brought the state government before the court and in 2008 a verdict was handed down that the matter should be examined and re-absorbed into the Benue civil service.

“Unfortunately, instead of waiting and following the reabsorption procedure, they decided to go to court and ask to be paid a certain amount of money.

“Some of these people have actually returned to their countries and accepted the appointments, but they are still fighting against the government of the state of Benue.

“And in 2012, the government of the state of Benue returned to the court and passed a verdict which ruled that they could not make monetary demands, because the question from the beginning did not refer to monetary demands, but to be re-absorbed into the service.

“One of their lawyers, Mr. Ocha Ulegede, took the matter to the Nasarawa State High Court, and another lawyer also appealed to the Abuja High Court on the matter.

“In November this year, they received a verdict by which they will decorate the accounts of the state.” The government retorted that they could not collect the bills because they were not under jurisdiction.

“Yesterday, an order was issued again to decorate all the accounts of the state and local government.

“It is unfortunate because the government should pay salaries before the celebration of Juletid, and the banks do not know these details, because while they are issuing a court order, they are garnishing them.

“It’s sad because tomorrow is Christmas and Monday is a public holiday, it’s pretty sad,” she added.

The Justice Commissioner and Attorney General, Mr. Gusa, said the state government has begun an appeal process against the warrant to put it aside.

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