An order by Abuja High Court, issuing a garnishee order (seizure of the account) of the Benue State government’s funds, deposited in all the state accounts and those of its parastatals over a judgment debt of N1.148 billion, has thrown the state into financial mess.
The accounts affected by the order include 23 accounts operated by the state government and its parastatals in seven commercial banks.
The State Commissioner for Information, Mrs. Ngunan Addingi who spoke to news men today, December 24 in Makurdi, the state capital, confirmed that the court order had crippled all activities in the state.
“This is saddening since the government is supposed to be paying salaries ahead of the Yuletide festivities and the banks do not know these details because as long as they bring a court order to them, they garnish the accounts.
“It is unfortunate because tomorrow is Christmas and Monday is a public holiday. It is quite sad,” the Commissioner said.
The order was sequel to an application brought before the court by one Julianna Igweka and 95 others against the Benue State Universal Basic Education Board and the Attorney General of the state.
The applicants were said to have approached the court for a leave to enforce the judgment of the Benue State High Court in a suit number MHC/227/2007.
The commissioner explained that the matter arose when, in 2007, selected non-indigenous staff of the State Universal Basic Education Board were laid off and ordered to return to their states of origin and be absorbed into their respective state’s civil service.
“The affected persons took the state government to court and in 2008, judgment was given that the matter should be looked into and they should be reabsorbed into by the Benue State civil service.
“Unfortunately, instead of them did not wait to follow due process to be reabsorbed, they decided to go to court to ask that they be paid a certain amount of money.
“Some of these people actually went to their states to take up appointments but are still fighting the Benue State government.
“In 2012, the Benue State government went to court and got a judgment that ruled that they could not make monetary demands since the issue from the onset was not about monetary demands but to be reabsorbed into the civil service.
“One of their lawyers then took the Benue State government to a Nasarawa State High Court while another lawyer approached an Abuja High Court on the same matter.
“In November this year, they got a court order to garnish the accounts of the state.
“The government wrote back that they could not garnish the accounts of the state because they were out of jurisdiction.
“An order was again given yesterday garnishing all the state and local government accounts.”