OML 112: Court restrains RMAFC, AGF from deducting money from Rivers statutory allocation
The Federal High Court, Abuja, has restrained the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) from deducting money from Rivers State statutory allocation in respect of the OML 112 Offshore.
The court on Monday, in Abuja, also ordered RMAFC to comply with the Supreme Court’s judgment regarding the OML112 Offshore and stop the deductions of the sums of N502 million or any sum whatsoever forming the proprietary rights of Rivers State government.
Delivering judgment, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, equally ordered the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Accountant General of the Federation and the RMAFC to pay interest at the various commercial rates not being less than 15 per cent per annum with monthly rests, on the illegally deducted and denied 13 per cent derivation due to the plaintiff from OML 112 offshore until satisfaction of the whole debt.
The suit was instituted by the Attorney General of Rivers to challenge the deduction of N502 million accruing from OML 112 from the statutory allocation of the state by the defendants.
While the Accountant General of the Federation is the first defendant, AGF is the second defendant.
Justice Taiwo also directed the defendants to make a full refund of the 13 per cent derivation illegally denied the plaintiff from the crude oil and gas production within OML 112 offshore from Sept. 2018 till the determination of the suit; and thereafter.
He further restrained the defendants, their agents, assigns, representatives, privies or howsoever called from disregarding the finality of the Supreme Court’s judgment delivered on March 18, 2011 in suit no: SC/27/2010, between: Attorney General of Rivers State and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State & Anor as it relates to the proprietary rights of the plaintiff in respect of OML 112 offshore.
Meanwhile, before the judgment, the court resisted attempts by counsel to RMAFC, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan, SAN, to arrest the judgment via an application for stay of proceedings.
Justice Taiwo, who dismissed the application for lacking in merit, held that it did not meet the condition precedent for it to be granted.
While describing the application as a veil attempt to arrest his judgment, Justice Taiwo said the rules of the court did not donate to him, the power to arrest his own judgment.
“I have looked at the affidavit in support of his application and I did not see how this court can stay proceedings,” he said.
According to him, the applicant has failed to furnish the court with all relevant documents for due consideration of his application and he does so at his own peril as this application will be refused.
He maintained that the first defendant did not meet the basic principles in the granting of stay of proceedings which he listed to include; whether there is a pending appeal properly entered at the Court of Appeal or where such an appeal raised issue of jurisdiction of the trial court.
According to the judge, the first defendant was fully aware of the matter in court but chose to sleep on his right by not entering appearances or filling any process.
“The first defendant was dully served with the originating summons and hearing notices on July 5 but he did not enter appearance or file any processes in court, only the second defendant who is a nominal party did.
“He was equally on July 10, served with the interim order of this court made on July 9, by this court along with hearing notice and the originating summons.
“The first defendant who chose to voluntary stay away from the proceedings is not covered by section 36 of the 1999 constitution.
“The role of the court is to maintain a level playing field for parties to ventilate their grievances.
“Where counsel failed to utilise the opportunity, he cannot now turn around to blame the court.
“Once that opportunity is offered, the duty of the court ends,” he said.
Justice Taiwo, therefore, said he found “no merit in this application and same is hereby refused.”
After refusing the application, he proceeded to read his judgment in the suit which was filed and argued by Counsel to the plaintiff, Lucius Nwosu, SAN.
The judge, after analysing the issues canvassed in the originating summons and the counter affidavit filed by the AGF, resolved all the issues in favour of the plaintiff.
He noted that the non filling of a counter affidavit by the first defendant to challenged the facts contained the affidavit in support of the originating summons was fatal to his case.
Justice Taiwo held that the consequence of an unchallenged affidavit is that the facts are uncontroverted and well established.
The suit raised some constitutional questions for determination by the court.
They include: “Whether it is constitutionally ultra vires the powers of the defendants to by administrative fiat deviate from the subsisting conclusions of facts and law arrived at by the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its judgment delivered on March 18, 2011 in suit no: SC/27/2010, between: Attorney General of Rivers State and Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State & Anor in respect of OML 112 offshore.
“Whether the provisions of Section 235 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) gives a stamp of finality to any decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria and thereby renders the purported administrative acts of review by the defendants to deduct or purport to deduct the money”.