Governors deny alleged role in N19b loan refunds’ fraud
Amid the controversy over the N19 billion “consultancy fee” deduction from the first tranche of the London-Paris loan refunds to the 36 state governors, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has cleared its members of any wrongdoing.
The allegation of fraud was made in the wake of last week’s directive by President Muhammadu Buhari for the release of another tranche of N500 billion from the loan refunds.
Some state chief executives are peeved by the five per cent slash from their entitlements as consultancy fee which they maintained was never discussed anytime in the open. The aggrieved governors further claimed that the scheme was hatched by a few who equally diverted the money to private pockets. They even maintained that the identities of the consultants were shrouded in secrecy.
With the current air of distrust, it is feared that the new tranche, when eventually disbursed, could also be mired in controversy. In fact, the situation is fueling public concern that the loan refunds expected to bring relief to cash-strapped governors may be mismanaged at the state level.
But the current leadership of the NGF dismissed the alleged fraud. A statement by its Head of Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, noted: “Allegations that monies accruing to states from the Paris and London Club refunds have found their way into private pockets are not true.
“Apart from stating that these reports are unfounded and are only a figment of the imagination of the writers, the forum wishes to also categorically state that nothing illegal has been committed in the entire process leading to the final disbursement to states of the first tranche of the repayment from states’ coffers and the refund of their loans.”
The governors through the statement titled “The NGF and Paris-London Clubs Loan Refund: Putting the records straight,” insisted: “It is important to state that in approving the repayment, due process was diligently followed and each and every approving authority, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the Auditor General of the Federation as well as the National Assembly were duly informed from the beginning to the end of all the transactions.”
It went further: “Indeed, a number of consultants were saddled with the task of verifying the amounts due to each of the states. They were recruited by the respective states but were eventually collapsed into a consortium of only a few, even though the others who did not make it to the final group were reimbursed according to their input.
“It may interest the readers that many more consultants throughout the country are still insisting that they did work on this same Paris-London Clubs’ repayments since a decade ago and that they are entitled to some compensation as well.
“Many of them had actually and verifiably done some work in the past and negotiated a fee of between 10 and 30 per cent with the different states that engaged them. It was, therefore, immoral and impossible to deny each their due, provided their input is verified and justified.
“It should be noted that if the Federal Government… of President Buhari had found anything corrupt, illegal and unpatriotic about the payment or the utilisation of the first tranche of the Paris-London Clubs’ fund repayment to states, it would not have approved the payment of the second tranche to the states. After all, we all know the unimpeachable level of commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari on issues of transparency and accountability.”
The Guardian learnt that $6.9 billion, being half of the agreed release, was channeled, on the directive of the Presidency, to the states through the NGF but a cap of N14.5 billion was placed on the amount a state could get.