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Legality Of Security Votes: Federal Court Says It lacks Jurisdiction To Hear Suit

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Plaintiff Says Will Appeal Ruling, Adds: 'If you stop security votes nobody will want to be a governor anymore.

' SAN FRANCISCO, December 31, 2013, (THEWILL) - A Federal High Court in the FCT Tuesday declined to hear a suit challenging the legality of funds deducted as security votes by the powerful and influential Governors of Nigerian states and the Minister of the Federal Capital territory (FCT).

Presiding Judge, Justice Adamu Bello, who made the ruling, said the court has no jurisdiction on the matter before striking out the suit filed by a legal practitioner, Chief Nkereuwem Akpan.

Some State Governors often deduct as much as N500, 000, 000 (five hundred million naira) about $3.

4m monthly as security votes.
Because they are deducted from the treasury as security votes, the governors expend the funds discretionally.

The Plaintiff had sued the 36 state governors, Minister of the FCT, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission challenging the legality of the deductions.

In his judgment, Justice Bello noted that the plaintiff had the locus standi to file the case as a matter of public interest, but held that the court had no jurisdiction over the major parties in the case, being the state governments and the FCT listed as the 1st to 37th defendants respectively.

The judge said his court could not adjudicate over matters involving the states, adding that the presence of the EFCC and the ICPC, which are agencies of the federal government, among the defendants could not confer the court with jurisdiction because they (EFCC and ICPC) are mere ancillary parties.

'There is no doubt that the FHC has been empowered to interpret the 1999 Constitution as it affects the Federal Government and its agencies.

'The 1st to 37th defendants are neither the Federal Government nor its agencies.

'This court does not have the power to exercise jurisdiction over 37 out of the 39 defendants.

'I cannot assume jurisdiction over the main parties in the suit.

'The suit as a necessity should be struck out and is struck out,' Justice Bello declared.

Plaintiff Vows To Appeal Ruling The plaintiff apparently dissatisfied with the ruling told reporters outside the court house that the suit will go all the way to the Supreme Court.

'We are going all the way to the Supreme Court - as far as I am concerned those monies are being misappropriated.

'If you stop security vote nobody will want to be a governor anymore,' he said.

In the originating summons, the plaintiff outlined nine questions for the court to determine, among which included 'Whether by virtue of the extant, sacrosanct and combined unequivocal provisions of section 16(2), section 120 (and other relevant provisions) of the 1999 Constitution Cap C 23, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, any of the defendants have the power, without lawful authority, to deduct monies from the statutory allocation made from the Federation Account to each of the States of the Federation or the Federal Capital Territory under the guise of 'Security Vote'.

He also asked the court to determine whether the policy of security vote was recognized either by the 1999 Constitution or any other law in the country.

The plaintiff also asked the court to determine whether, going by the provisions of section 205(d) of the 1999 Constitution, 'the criminal deductions so made by the defendants is not fraudulent, illegal, void and unconstitutional, and whether the 1st to 37th defendants (governors and FCT minister) are not to that extent in breach of their oath to office for bare violation of the Constitution.

' The plaintiff said he was empowered by section 16 of the 1999 Constitution, and section 51 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, as a citizen of Nigeria, 'to know the details of these gargantuan and mind bogging deductions and expenditure tagged as 'security votes' and wantonly misappropriated and otherwise illegally deducted by the 1st to 37th defendants from the statutory allocations that went to each of the various states of the Federation and the FCT from the Federation Account since May 29th 1999 till date.

' The court was equally asked to determine 'whether the defendants should not be compelled to return the monies illegally deducted and misappropriated as security votes.

" He also asked the court to order the state governors and the FCT minister to return to the treasury the sums they had already deducted and collected as security votes.

Akpan further asked the court to declare that the EFCC and the ICPC were in breach of their statutory mandate for failing to investigate the security vote deductions made by the state governors and the FCT minister.

He also asked the court to order the two anti-graft agencies to immediately commence investigations into the security vote deductions, and prosecute the governors and the FCT minister once their immunities expire upon leaving office at the end of their term or removal from office.