The ground is set for an epic legal battle at the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos as senior maritime lawyer, Mr. Mike Igbokwe (SAN) on Friday filed a suit challenging the powers of the Federal Government to direct the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to pay the internally generated revenue accruing to them or funds statutorily-provided for into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) at the Central Bank of Nigeria and to close all their revenue accounts in different money deposit banks across the country and beyond and to transfer same into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) on or before the 28th day of February, 2015.
Acting on behalf of an indigenous shipping company, Elshcon Nigeria Limited, Igbokwe said the directive, which was issued by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to all government agencies should have excluded NIMASA, NPA and NIWA in line with their enabling laws.
The suit number FHC/L/CS/201/15, brought before Justice Ibrahim Buba, has the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Account-General of the Federation and the Minster of Finance as defendants.
Igbokwe said the plaintiff had applied ex parte to the Federal High Court Lagos for an order restraining the 1st Defendant either by himself or through his agents or servants or privies or assigns or successors-in-interest or through any company, maritime Agency or Ministry whatsoever claiming through, acting for or under or deriving authority from him or the Federal Government of Nigeria or otherwise howsoever from implementing or continuing to implement the directives by the 1st and 2nd Defendants to Ministries, Departments and Agencies to pay internally generated revenue accruing to them or funds statutorily-provided for into the Consolidated Revenue Fund (‘CRF’) at the Central Bank of Nigeria and to close all their revenue accounts in different money deposit banks across the country and beyond and to transfer same into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) on or before the 28th day of February, 2015 as the directives relate to or concern revenue or other moneys payable under the Constitution and the Acts of the National Assembly into other public funds established for specific purposes including the statutory revenue accruing to the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (‘CVFF’), the statutory financial allocations to the Maritime Fund and to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria collected, kept and administered by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, the Funds maintained and general reserve funds established and maintained by Nigerian Ports Authority and the Funds established for its running expenses by National Inland Waterways Authority; pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction filed by the Plaintiff/Applicant.
The plaintiff is seeking six reliefs, which include an order directing the defendants to stop forthwith, the implementation or further implementation of or compliance or further compliance with, the directives.
Justice Buba had consequently directed that the plaintiff should serve the Defendants with the Motion and Notice for interlocutory injunction and Originating Summons. It also granted an accelerated hearing of both the Motion on Notice and the Originating Summons and adjourned the case to Thursday 5th March 2015.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria said he had written to NIMASA, NPA and NIWA advising them not to take any action or do anything, with respect to or in furtherance of the implementation of or compliance with, the Federal Government directives pending the determination of the matter by the Court so as not to “stifle or have the potential effect of stifling the exercise by the Court of its undoubted jurisdiction on our Client’s pending Motion on Notice for interlocutory injunction and Originating Summons thereby destroying the subject-matter of the litigation before the Motion on Notice and Originating Summons are heard and determined as such would amount to an abuse of court process and acts that Courts frown at and that our client would be compelled to move the Court to set aside”.
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