Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State accused the Federal Government of making illegal deductions from the federation account which has led to the pauperization of states, saying the NBA should speak up against the many illegalities being perpetrated by the Federal Government if democracy must grow in the country.
Speaking while playing host to Mr Augustine Alegeh, SAN, President of the Nigeria Bar Association in Government House on Friday, Oshiomhole said, the Nigerian Bar must find time to speak out not only on rule of law but also on political issues without necessarily being partisan.
Oshiomhole said “I like to comment on your advice to the obedience of court orders. Even on this, I ask you to confront the issues frontally.
“There is a Supreme Court judgment about the status of crude accounts. That account is illegal having regards to sections of the constitution. The judgment of the Supreme Court was clear; you can’t keep a part of the federation account.
“Crude oil excess is unknown and even the concept of excess is dubious. How can you have excess at a time you are borrowing? That pronouncement is there and I want to hear the voice of the Bar on that issue and you can compel the federal government to obey the Supreme Court. When you do that you can come back to us and ask us to do our part”, he said.
Oshiomhole pointed out “Still talking about the violation. I have had to ask Chief Mike Ozehkome (SAN) to challenge the powers of the Auditor-General of the Federation and the President to make deductions from the federation account because the constitution as we understand it is clear. All monies must first be distributed. Even the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) has its money deducted from source. This is unknown to the constitution.
“ALGON is just like the Governor’s Forum. How much we pay and how we maintain the Governors’ Forum is the business of the Governors. It will be ridiculous to ask the Accountant-General of the Federation to make deductions from the federation account to maintain the Governors’ Forum. There are several such violations which the Bar must attack and speak on the side of the rule of law.
“I am sure you are aware that the Federal Government engages illegally in clear subversion of the letter and the spirit of the constitution, deducted money accruing to local government to give to contractors who have no contract with each of these Local Governments to build so-called Health Centers across the 774 Local Government Areas in the country.”
He continued, “How can the Federal Government enter into a contract on behalf of Local Governments given the clear language of the constitution and the members of the Bar, SANS and the Attorney-General of the Federation are aiding and abetting the situation and we sit here helpless.
“So, I ask you to find the voice to tell the Federal Government to respect the constitution and to ask the various State Bars to watch out. While the State Bar must monitor what happens in the state, the National Bar must monitor what happens in the Villa.
“Today, Edo State Local Government Fund is been appropriated by the Federal Governments to pay dubious Contractors and for contracts not done in Edo State. It is not only illegal, it is fraudulent and it is the height of corruption and abuse of office and the Bar should be loud and clear against this kind of abuses.”
On the Judicial Workers strike, Oshiomhole said, “What is the interest of workers on whether or not the head of courts gets its allocation whether as First charge or secondary charge. This has nothing to do with salary of workers. Why should it be the headache of judiciary workers to go to court to ask the court to give order that government should give money directly to heads of courts?
“It is not the business of trade unions to ask the courts to make pronouncements on how its employer’s gets funds for Capital projects.
“Given the language and the provisions of the trade union acts and the labor act and trade dispute act, if court orders are disobeyed, assuming they were properly made in good faith, do union have rights to enforce those orders particularly when it has nothing to do with their salaries and allowances? He asked.
Speaking on the crisis Edo State House of Assembly, Oshiomhole said, “The matter you have raised, I pray that you will carry out your own independent investigation. If the Edo Bar has not given you all the facts or the facts don’t appear comprehensive, it is to the extent that they have unwittingly made themselves parties to the case in a partisan manner.
He explained that the Assembly crisis is fuelled by the refusal of some lawmakers to obey valid court orders because they belong to a party which is ruling at the centre.
Earlier, the President of Nigerian Bar Association, Mr. Augustine Alegeh said he was in Government House to present the new leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association to the governor.
He said, “We believe strongly that democracy can only thrive when there is compliance with court orders. State Governments should comply with court orders even when they are unpalatable. The proper thing to do is to appeal. I want to urge your Excellency to ensure that Edo State is a leading light in obedience of court judgements. We also know that the situation that has arisen in Edo State is saddening, unfortunate and unconstitutional.
“A state cannot exist with two parallel legislatures and what we have read in our law is that the House of Assembly which was inaugurated at the inception is the valid House of Assembly.”