THE Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has described the position of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on payment of $418 million Paris Club refund to some consultants as fraudulent, self-serving and against the public interest.
NGF chairman, Kayode Fayemi, stated this in a communique issued at the end of the governors’ meeting at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Wednesday.
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Some consultants, who were allegedly engaged by state governments to secure refunds after the Federal Government paid $12 billion from the Federation Account to get a $18 billion debt written off by the Paris Club of international creditors in 2006, are demanding the payment of $418 million as fees for their services.
The consultants want the Federal Government to facilitate the payment of the $418 million by deducting it from the shares of the various states from the Federation Account.
Although the state governments had gone to court to stop the planned deductions, the AGF Malami is pushing for the payment of the $418 million to the consultants.
In the communique released by the governors on Wednesday, Fayemi insisted that the planned deductions for payment of the said consultancy services was illegal, especially as the matter was before the courts.
“The forum extensively reviewed the purported attempt by the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council, to effect illegal payment of the sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancies in respect to the Paris Club Refunds to state and local governments,” he said.
“The forum set up a committee comprising the chairman, the governor of Ekiti State, the vice chairman, the governor of Ondo State, the governor of Plateau State, the governor of Nasarawa State and the governor of Ebonyi State, to interface with the committee set up by Mr President to review the matter.
“But the position of the Governors’ Forum is clear and unequivocal. Although this matter is sub-judice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of a matter that is still being pursued in the courts, we are constrained by the manner in which the Honorable Attorney-General has been going around various media houses and purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which governors have committed themselves to and agreed to, even though he is very much aware that that’s not the case.
“As far as we are concerned, this is a matter that governors feel very strongly about and we do not believe that the Attorney-General of the Federation is acting in the public interest. We believe he’s acting in personal, selfish interest, that would ultimately become clear when this matter is fully addressed in the law courts.”
The Ekiti state governor said that the governors had resolved to pursue the issue before the law court to a logical conclusion to know the next steps to take on the matter.
The payment of the Paris Club refund has been a protracted controversy between the NGF and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari, who had initially approved the payment, directed the finance ministry to halt it pending the determination of all the controversies.
Last Thursday, while addressing journalists at the state house press hall, Malami dismissed the governors’ agitations concerning the payment to the consultants they hired.
While describing their agitations as crying over spilt milk, Malami also reminded the governors that they created the liability whose payment, he said, they have also indemnified.
He explained that while the NGF made a request for the refund, one of the components of their requests to the Federal Government was the settlement of the consultants whose services the governors engaged.
Malami recalled that the governors had initially made part payment to the consultants but stopped and subsequently asked for an out-of-court settlement when the matter became a subject of litigation.
According to him, the development then culminated in an appeal in the form of a request to the President to aid in facilitating the payment to the consultants, a request he said was consequently transmitted to the Office of the AGF for legal advice.
He explained that after subjecting the request to critical checks, it was discovered that there was no element of fraud involved.