The 36 states want the court to begin hearing on the matter.
The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Federal Government and 36 state governors to still explore out-of-court settlement on the controversy over the $1 billion Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).
The governors had approached the court over alleged illegal diversion of funds meant for the federation to maintain the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and SWF.
At the resumed hearing on Thursday, the appellants informed the court that the central government had not shown commitment to the out-of-court settlement.
They urged the court to fix a date for the definite hearing of the application on its merit.
Wole Olanipekun, counsel to the Federal Government, argued that “the appellants were very economical with the truth’’.
He said that it was not true that the central government had not showed commitment to resolve the controversy out-of-court but that “progress from the commitment by parties may have been small.’’
“The governors would, however, not be wrong if they claimed that the progress made was not appreciable by their assessment.
“This is because of the technicalities involved in the entire process; if given time, the matter could be resolved amicably,’’ he said.
Mr. Olanipekun further said that the matter in contention was political and the court therefore should avail parties more time to explore further solutions.
However, Adegboyega Awomolo, counsel to the appellants, said that the matter was constitutional and not political.
Justice Walter Onnonoghen, who presided, held that “there is nothing constitutional about money sharing but negotiation.
“For the interest of peace and justice the parties must go back to further explore opportunities to resolve the matter amicably. We are urging you to ensure that the matter is amicably settled on or before the next adjourned date.
“The matter is fixed for Dec. 2 for the report of the settlement or hearing,’’ he said.
Thursday’s Supreme Court decision contradicts its promise on November 22, 2012 that it would give a definite hearing date if the parties did not resolve out of court by Thursday.
Justice Chukwuma Eneh, who led six other judges, in the November, 2012 ruling said, “having listened to counsels in the matter and the failure of the defendant to report back on terms of amicable settlement, this matter is hereby adjourned to May 9th, 2013 for report of settlement or a definite hearing date.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that three separate applications by the state governments are pending before the court seeking interpretation of section 162 of the 1999 constitution as it affects the diversion of funds.
The governors insisted that funds accruable to the Federation Account must be set aside for sharing among the three tiers of government.
Attempts to settle the matter out of court by parties had failed since the plaintiffs approached the court in 2011.
The states had challenged the legality of the Excess Crude Account and the decision to transfer the money from the account to SWF.
The states had sought an order compelling the Federal Government to pay into the Federation Account the sum, being the balance of the money that accrued to the central purse between 2004 and 2007. The funds were proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profit tax and oil royalties.
The states further asked the court to order the respondent to transfer to the Federation Account all sums standing to the credit of the Excess Crude Account.
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