Garnishee proceedings: Is Attorney-General’s consent still required on government funds?

 

Central Bank of Nigeria is not a public officer when in custody of government funds, so as to require A.G. consent before garnishee.

 

“There is absolutely no basis for treating government bank accounts any differently from bank accounts of every other juristic personality or customers.”

 

Facts:

By a consent Judgment, the 1st and 2nd Respondents became entitled to N12 billion Naira from the Federal Government of Nigeria represented by the Attorney-General of the Federation, 3rd and 4th Respondents in this appeal. They assumed responsibility for this negotiated sum, reduced from the original sum won against the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd (NITEL) which was then discharged from all liabilities on the debt. After paying some part, the 3rd and 4th Respondents failed to pay the rest. 1st and 2nd Respondents commenced garnishee proceedings against the Appellant who has custody of their funds.

 

Issue: Whether the Court below was right when it held that the Appellant is not a public officer and as such the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation was not required for attachment of funds in its custody in the garnishee proceedings.[1]

 

Held

The other leg of the argument is where the Appellant’s counsel holds out the Central Bank of Nigeria as a public officer and relied on the case of Ibrahim V. JSC[2] in particular. In the case under consideration, I have ruled that the relationship between the Appellant and the 3rd and 4th Respondents is that of banker and customer relationship. In other words, and as rightly argued by 1st and 2nd Respondents’ counsel, the Appellant is not a public officer in the context of Section 84 Sheriffs and Civil Process Act, when regard is had to the history of this appeal.[3]

 

Section 84 has been reproduced earlier in the course of this Judgment. It is apparent herein, on the facts of this case that the Central Bank of Nigeria acts as a banker to the Federal Government with respect to government funds in its custody. Section 2(e) of the Central Bank of Nigeria Act provides thus: “act as a banker and provide economic and financial advice to the Federal Government.”

Section 36 of the CBN Act also provides: “The Bank shall receive and disburse Federal Government moneys and keep accounts thereof.”[4]

 

The Appellant does not stand as public officer in this situation. Therefore it follows that the need to seek the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation does not arise.[5]

 

The case of Purification Tech. (Nig) Ltd V. Attorney-General of Lagos State[6] is also on all fours with the facts of the case under consideration herein. Again the persuasive Judgment of the Court of Appeal at pages 679-680 is relevant and said: “There is absolutely no basis for treating government bank accounts any differently from bank accounts of every other juristic personality or customers.”[7]

Central Bank of Nigeria V. Interstella Communications Ltd & Ors [2018] All FWLR (Pt. 930) 442SC; [2018] 7 NWLR (1618) 294SC.

 

Central Bank of Nigeria V. Interstella Communications Ltd & Ors [2015] 8 NWLR (Pt. 1462) 456(CA) affirmed.

Purification Tech. (Nig) Ltd V. Attorney-General of Lagos State [2004] 9 NWLR (Pt. 879) 665CA approved.

Ibrahim V. JSC [1998] 14 NWLR (Pt. 584) 1SC considered.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] All FWLR @ 512G, 518D; NWLR @321C, 340G.

[2] [1998] 14 NWLR (Pt. 584) 1SC.

[3] All FWLR @522G-H; NWLR @346D-E.

[4] All FWLR @523A-C; NWLR @346E-F.

[5] All FWLR @523C; NWLR @346G.

[6] [2004] 9 NWLR (Pt. 879) 665CA.

[7] All FWLR @523F-G; NWLR @346-347H-A.

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3,134 thoughts on “Garnishee proceedings: Is Attorney-General’s consent still required on government funds?”

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