Paris Club deductions: AGF working against Nigerians’ interest – Governors

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The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has accused the Attorney  General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, of  working against the interest of Nigerians in defending the humongous deductions  of state resources amounting to $418 million from the Federation Account.

It said the decision by the AGF to back the consultants who desperately want to grab $418 million from the accounts of states and local governments for an alleged work done in relations to the Paris Club raised questions on the propriety and spirit of justice.

A statement by Head, Media and Public Affairs of NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said contrary to the AGF’s argument  that the NGF and ALGON took no early steps to appeal as they should have done, state governors had appealed challenging the judgment in various courts.

The NGF said despite  that the AGF had been served all court processes, he had nevertheless ignored them and authorised payment with unprecedented speed not common in public service.

The governors’ forum said while it was convenient for the NGF to say that part of these judgment debts have been paid with the release of $86,546,526 and N19,439,225,871 in 2016 and $100 million in 2018 to the contractors with the concurrence of the NGF, it still did not detract from the fact that they were payments wrongly made, which ought not to have been made even if they were products of consent judgments.

“States can still go after the contractors to recover the funds wrongly made. It should concern the HAGF that ALGON disowned the contracts claimed by RIOK and the same was duly communicated to him requesting him to prevent the use of LG funds to settle dubious and illegal claims.

“Was the AGF not concerned that several contractors are laying claim to legal fees for the same Paris Club refund? Was it lost on the AGF on the detailed procedure available under the law how legal fees can be claimed in deserving cases? One of the strange payments made is that of $47,831,920 million to Panic Alert Security Systems Ltd/George Uboh for allegedly reviewing a 16-page judgment for the then factional NGF. Can the Office of the HAGF point to any consent judgment awarding that sum to panic alert? Did the NGF’s letter of 20th January, 2020 relied upon by the HAGF ever recommend the payment of any sum?”

“The AGF also says that the NGF and LGAs seek to transfer their liability to the FGN. That is not true. There is no liability to transfer in the first place and none exists; neither has the NGF provided any undertaking or indemnity to the FGN to act on its behalf as represented by the AGF.

“The AGF has consistently stated that this administration is an avid respecter of the rule of law. This is one case in which this commitment should be fully and completely demonstrated. Let the AGF remain neutral and protect scarce public resources. Let him advice the contractors to wait until all appeals and litigations in court are concluded. That is the true test of observing the rule of law. There is no other way, uncomfortable as that would appear. State resources needed for critical development should not under any guise be frittered away as payments for contracts whose veracity and authenticity is still a subject of litigation and disputation.

“These contractors are impecunious and cannot restitute the states/LGAs if the appeals or other litigation are determined against them. We call on the general public to be alert and vigilant. The debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris Club in 2005 was meant to enable her have a respite and use the resources saved for meaningful development. It was not for distribution to private persons to fund their luxurious lives; neither can Nigeria justify her borrowing funds all over the world to fund capital projects and turn round to disburse state resources to individuals in a manner that offends all public sensibilities. We urge all those appointed as gatekeepers to our laws to ensure that the laws of our land are respected and protected. Let professionalism, reasonable caution and due diligence prevail on this matter, please.”

 

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