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Paris Fund: When governors chose lawlessness – Part 2

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Kayode Fayemi

Continued from yesterday’s back page
The Indemnity purportedly effected by the erstwhile Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is unknown to the states and the indemnity which was prepared by the NGF and retained in the Forum’s records-copy attached) but rejected by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) which proposed a substitute draft that was eventually never used.

Kayode Fayemi led NGF also argued thus: “However, assuming without conceding that the NGF provided an indemnity, we still feel that the NGF as a legal entity cannot bind the states without the said states first authorizing it to do so. This has always been our practice in any situation where we seek to act as one united indivisible body.

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“Also, the Federal Government (FG) cannot issue Promissory Notes without the consent of all the states and the NGF as an organization is shocked that the Debt Management Office (DMO) knowing the position of the law regarding this will approve these deductions without the consent or acquiescence of the states.

“The position of the NGF and the states in this regard is that the states do not consider themselves liable to these firms and persons in any way. It is instructive to note that successive governments had rejected the approval of these payments and going ahead to approve them now will hurt the anti-corruption credentials of this Government.

“As we have often stated, these deductions from the statutory allocations of the states could not be more ill- timed. We note the recessionary state of the country’s economy including the all too well known fact that the States are grappling with the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the squeeze on petroleum revenue.”

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He said: “There are, at present, several deductions from the statutory allocations of states and further deductions will spell doom on an already over-stretched economy. We therefore urge the Chief of Staff to protect the integrity of this government by ensuring that activities of this nature are done above board. Anything short of this will come back to haunt us when we are no longer in government”.

In the light of this, we respectfully implore Mr. President to order an independent forensic audit of these proposed deductions to determine the validity”.

With all due respect, the position of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning makes more sense because it is built on sound logic, the legal pedestals and imperative need for the Federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari to abide by the binding decisions of the Courts of competent jurisdiction in which all the parties including the states, Local Government Councils and the State Governments represented validly by the Nigerian Governors forum that was in place at the time of the landmark decisions and since government is a continuum,  it makes no sense for the new leadership of the Nigerian Governors forum that have already benefitted from the sweat and efforts of the Nigerian Consultants including the reputable consultancy firm of the Nigerian lawyer Prince Ned Nwoko  can now be seen arguing against the decision of the Nigerian State to obey the law.  How on Earth is it allowed that a party in a suit who has already consented to a valid and binding orders of the courts of competent jurisdiction be tolerated to call for a forensic investigations of cases that went through the Nation’s court system and the Courts reached a determination and the import of the verdict is that those who laboured to enable Nigeria reap the repayment of excess charges from the Paris Club should be entitled to their just wages. Let us read briefly from the Nigerian lawyer who practically resolved these knotty issues that led to Nigeria collecting back huge repayment in the person of Prince Ned Nwoko.

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Asked to express how he would describe his experience of the Paris Club refund and he responded thus: “Let me say that it is a mixed bag in terms of what Nigerians know of it and how the three tiers of government have treated it. At one level, there is a sense of accomplishment of what one has done for his country. When you do a patriotic duty and accomplish the task, there is a sense of accomplishment. Like the Association of Local Governments in Nigeria (ALGON) mentioned in their letter, it was a patriotic duty that involved a lot of risks and hard work, it took a lot of time and expertise to pursue the creditor-countries to refund the excess deduction of funds that they creamed off from Nigeria’s repayment of the foreign loans by the creditors. Of course this was a process that began in 1992 to 2002. The state governors are simply treating it as a windfall from the sale of crude oil or a form of bailout fund. We pursued the matter from 1992 to 2002, when most of those who are treating the refund as bailout fund or windfall from the sale of crude oil have not even dreamt of venturing into politics.”

He added solemnly that: “You can imagine what it meant for a cash-strapped government to realise that it had such a huge sum of money somewhere and the federal and state governments have so far shared the sum of N413, 464,646, 605, from the Paris Club refund but I can tell you that it did not come that easy. We encountered hostility from the creditor-nations, some of them sent their security agents after us, some employed blackmail by threatening to severe diplomatic relations with Nigeria, some felt that we were impugning their national integrity, some even went ahead to instigate the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission against us to force us to pull back. Some government officials who felt that we were meddling in their affairs also built walls around us. It became an uphill task to obtain the documents where we needed forensic evidence to support our work. As an international legal firm, we had worked for some countries in Africa.

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“The countries engaged our firm to assist them to verify the process of repayment of their foreign loans and, in the process, we discovered that there were unethical things that had taken place. With that as our background, we approached some state governments to act as their consultants to verify the issue of repayment of the foreign loans. We entered into legally binding agreements with some of the states and, as we progressed, other states and local governments became interested. For instance, under the doctrine of collective sacrifice that was adopted by the Federal Ministry of Finance to deduct funds from states and local governments, deduction were made from the allocation to the states and local governments from the Federation Account.”

These were highly credible storyline from a principal participant who helped to recover these huge refunds from the Paris Club.

One begins to wonder why of all people, the current hierarchy of the Nigerian Governors Forum now wants to rubbish the efforts made by some Nigerian patriots to pull back resources that were literally taken away from us by the Paris Club of nations. Why is Kayode Fayemi led Governors Forum grandstanding and playing politics with a matter that has already been settled by competent courts of law and took many years to attain? Why hire the online newspaper to try to demonize Ned Nwoko so as to deny him of the fruits of his legitimate labour?

To divert attention by introducing sensational angle to the whole scripts of seeking to undermine the Rule of law, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said Monday that he was offered $80 million bribe to drop his objection to the settlement of the $418 million judgment debts purportedly owed by states and their local governments in securing the Paris Club refunds.

He told a friendly online newspaper in an exclusive interview that he was offered the money after he rejected an initial $40 million offer.

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Mr. Fayemi, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said the fixers who approached him over the matter, also raised the offer to $80 million when they could not break his resistance with the initial $40 million offer.

He said he similarly rejected the $80 million offer in the interest of justice.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) needs to extend invitations to Fayemi to tell Nigerians who approached him with such a huge bribe offer. The Ekiti State governor has continued to use the friendly online newspaper to wage his war of attrition against legitimate and credible Nigerian consultants who initiated and won for Nigeria these huge funds that came at a time that most States of the federation couldn’t pay salaries to their workforce.

The same online newspaper hired as mercenary writers also ignorantly reported thus: “The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has for years disregarded repeated warnings against the suspicious $418 million judgment debts said to be owed by the states and their local governments with respect to the Paris Club refunds.”

Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and was a Federal Commissioner at the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria.

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