Court rejects Rivers’ request for interim stoppage of police fund deductions

Justice Ahmed Mohammed of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, turned down a request of the Rivers Government to temporarily halt the deduction of funds from the federation account for the funding of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (NPTF).

Earlier, Joseph Daudu, SAN, who represented the state’s government, had urged Justice Mohammed to issue an interim order suspending the funds deduction after the Federal Government’s agents in the case pleaded for more time to explore the option of amicable resolution of the dispute in the case.

While Tijani Gazali represented the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) as 1st defendant, Mr K. E Idoko represented the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) and Chinedu Achoume represented the Minister of Finance as 2nd and 4th defendants respectively.

The 3rd defendant, the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, was not represented by any lawyer at the proceedings.

Arguing, Daudu told the court to make the interim order or make the government’s lawyers to give an undertaking to stop the funds deduction pending the conclusion of the settlement talks.

However, the defendants’ lawyers opposed the request for the issuance of an interim order and declined to give an undertaking for the suspension of the funds deduction.

Counsel to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), who was joined as the 1st defendant in the case, Mr Tijjani Gazali, argued that the deduction of funds was based on provision of a law whose operations could not be stopped by consent of parties in a  case.

“Agreed, it is a contractual relationship which is about give-and-take, but parties cannot by consent stop the operations of the law,” Gazali said.

Delivering a ruling, Justice Mohammed, said it was clear that parties to the case could not reach any agreement.

He said while the court would not want to stand in the way of an amicable settlement of the matter, it would also not entertain any steps capable of frustrating the expeditious determination of the case.

The judge, who refused to grant Daudu’s plea, reaffirmed the order of accelerated hearing which he earlier issued for the case on June 10.

He then adjourned the case until July 20 for hearing, saying, “This adjournment is without prejudice the right of parties to pursue an amicable settlement of the  matter.”

The Rivers State Government, through its AGF, had, on May 20, filed the suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/511/2020, to challenge the constitutionality and validity of section 4(1)(a) and Section 4(1)(b) of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act 2019, which permit the  deduction of 0.5 per cent of the total revenue accruing to the Federation Account and be paid to the Nigeria Police Trust Fund.

Gov. Nyesom Wike-led of Rivers contended that it was not the responsibility of the state governments but that of the Federal Government to fund the police.

Its lawyers led by Daudu argued that by virtue of Section 162 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution, funds standing to the credit of the federation account “can only be distributed among the Federal Government, state governments and local government councils in each state of Nigeria and not directly to any agency of the Federal Government including the Nigeria Police Force”.It urged the court to, among others, declare the  section of the law “permitting the direct deduction of any sum or percentage of revenue accruing to the federation account or which ought to have been paid into the federation account for the purpose of providing  funds for the Nigeria Police Trust Fund” as  “unconstitutional, null and void”.

It also urged the court to order a refund of the money deducted from the federation account and paid into the NPTF since when it was informed about it at the in April 2020 Federation Account Allocation Committee meeting.(NAN)