Court throws out suit challenging FG on N23tn Ways and Means Loan


 A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday dismissed a suit seeking to restrain the Federal Government (FG) from securitising the sum of N22.7 trillion Ways and Means Loan support it got from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

Justice James Omotosho, in a judgment, held that the plaintiffs lacked locus standi (legal right) to institute the case.

Justice Omotosho further held that where the plaintiffs had the locus standi to file the suit, they had failed to prove same

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the plaintiffs; Justin Edim and Akinfewa Akinwunmi, had sued President Bola Tinubu, Federal Government of Nigeria, CBN and Ministry of Finance as 1st to 4th defendants.

Others in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/1286/2023, are Debt Management Office (DMO), National Assembly and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) as 5th to 7th defendants respectively.

The plaintiffs, through their counsel, Victor Opatola, had said that they initiated the legal action on behalf of themselves and other Nigerian citizens.

They specifically asked the court to stop the conversion of the debt to a promissory note or any other promise to pay at a future date or securitisation by ways of issuance of treasury bills, bonds or other forms of security.

In December 2022, the FG had requested the 9th National Assembly for permission to securitise the debts they had incurred from the CBN over the years.

The plaintiffs, therefore, claimed that the series of loans secured from the CBN had amounted to N23.7 trillion, and that the FG was planning to restructure the loans to something that could be traded.

They further stated that the FG had over the years secured various loans from the CBN under the Ways and Means provision of Section 38 of the CBN Act in contravention of relevant laws which stipulated that the total amount the FG could borrow shall not at any time exceed five per cent of the previous year’s revenue of the FG.

They averred that recently, the Ways and Means debt of N22.7 trillion was decided to be converted into bond (promissory note) contrary to Section 38(3)(b) of the CBN Act.

The plaintiffs accordingly want the court to declare that the effect of securitising the Ways and Means debt would adversely affect the plaintiffs and millions of Nigerians, as well as rob them of the true worth of their savings and further drive Nigerians below poverty line.

“That by securing the Ways and Means Debt, the government will be putting too much money in the money market which naturally increases liquidity in the Nigerian economy which pen-ultimately skyrocket inflation in Nigeria.

“That unless the respondents are compelled by an injunction of this honourable court, it will continue to take steps in variance with the law and continue in its efforts to securitise the Ways and Means loan; which if completed and bought by Nigerians and investors might become irreversible,” they said.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Omotosho struck out the name of the National Assembly from the suit, the plaintiffs, having breached the condition precedence of filing a pre-action notice on the legislature three months before filing the suit.

On whether the plaintiffs had the legal right to have filed the suit, the judge said though the plaintiffs claimed that they filed the matter on behalf of the masses, he held that the instant case was not a fundamental enforcement rights suit.

He said the claim that the suit was brought on behalf of the public was, therefore, incomprehensible.

The judge then asked whether there was any public forum where the plaintiffs brought the people together or conducted a poll to gather their opinions and views before commencing the action.

He said the plaintiffs had not shown to the court how the Ways and Means bill affected their personal rights.

He said that having failed to show how this affected them personally, they had no right to file on Nigerians’ behalf.

“The need to have requisite locus standi is to prevent all kinds of suits.

“The case is hereby dismissed for lack of locus standi,” he declared.

Justice Omotosho further held that even if the plaintiffs had had locus, the exhibits attached to their court processes were not certified true copies (CTCs).

According to the judge, the plaintiffs only come with a printout of an online newspaper as evidence before the court.

He said that the only admissible copy of a newspaper printout would have been to certify the photocopy of same.

“You cannot just printout or buy a newspaper from a newspaper vendor and brought it to court.

“it must be certified by the National Library by virtue of Section 84 of Evidence Act, 2011.

“Where a public document is ought to be tendered, only the certified true copy will be admissible,” he said.

The judge, who said that the court cannot rely on downloaded documents as being genuine, said it is either the original copy or the CTC.

He restated that a public document must be certified to be admissible before a court.

Justice Omotosho, who said that the suit was full of speculation and rumour, expunged the exhibits from the court file.

According to him the court does not rely on speculation.

The judge, consequently, dismissed the suit for lack of locus standi.


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