Following the inability of the federal government and states to amicably resolve the dispute arising from the creation of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), the Supreme Court Monday fixed March 24, 2014 for the hearing of the suit filed by the states against the federal government.
The parties, for over a year, have tried to reach an out-of-court settlement over what the states termed the illegal diversion of funds meant for the federation to the ECA and SWF, but a middle-of-the-road solution to the dispute has been impossible to reach.
As a result, the two parties resumed their legal battle Monday before a full panel of seven justices of the Supreme Court presided over by Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen.
Other members of the panel were Justice Muntaka Coomasie, Justice Mary Peter-Odili, Justice Kudirat Kekere Ekun, Justice Kumah Akaahs and Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi.
The states had filed different suits seeking the interpretation of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution as it affects the diversion of funds, which ordinarily ought to accrue to the Federation Account for sharing among the three tiers of government.
Before the court adjourned the case to March 24, next year, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), lawyer for the states, who led nine other Senior Advocates of Nigeria along with 26 other lawyers, informed the court that the case required its urgent intervention.
The states went to court in 2008 over the issue, following which discussions, offers, counter-offers have been made to resolve the matter but none had succeeded so far.
The case as instituted by the states is aimed at resolving the dispute over the retention of the ECA and the transfer of $1 billion to the SWF.
The governments of the 36 states had approached the court to seek for an order compelling the Government of the Federation to pay into the Federation Account, the sum of N5.51 trillion being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007 from the proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profits tax and oil royalties.
The federal government had classified such earnings as “excess crude proceeds” and “excess PPT and royalties” which were paid into an account termed the “Excess Crude Account”.
The governors also want the Supreme Court to order the federal government to transfer to the Federation Account all sums standing to the credit of the ECA.