Paris Club Refund Fees: Nigerian Governors reject Justice Minister’s claim
Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja
The Governors of Nigeria’s 36 states have rejected the claims made by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, over the sum of US$418 million, which he said would be paid to consultants hired to recover the Paris Club deductions for the states and local governments.
Malami had, at a media briefing last week, said that state governors have no justification to challenge the $418 million deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to consultants they hired.
Consequently, the governors, who met on Wednesday at the State House Conference Centre, under the umbrella of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, insisted that the Justice Minister’s claims were “Fraudulent and will not stand.”
Chairman of the Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, who read the communiqué after the meeting, said that the meeting reviewed the matter and resolved to pursue it to the highest court in the country.
“The forum extensively reviewed the purported attempt by the AGF and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and a recent judgement of the Supreme Court to secure the approval of the FEC to effect the illegal payment of the sum of US $418 million dollars to contractors who allegedly executed consultancies in respect to the Paris Club refund to the state and local governments.”
Governor Fayemi disclosed that the forum set up a committee to be chaired by him and the Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State as the Vice Chairman to interface with the committee set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to review the matter.
Governors Simon Lalong of Plateau State, Abdullahi Shehu of Nasarawa State and Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State are other members of the committee.
Fayemi insisted that the position of the governors on the issue “Is clear and unequivocal.”
He said: “Although this matter is subjudice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of matter that is still being pursued in the court, we are constrained by the manner in which the Honourable Attorney-General has been going around various media houses purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which the governors have committed themselves to and agreed to even though he is very much aware that that is not the case.
“And we reject all of the claims he has made on this issue and we also insist that states will not give up on insisting that these purported claims are fraudulent and will not stand as far as governors are concerned. And we will take every constitutional and legal means to ensure that this purported consultancies are fully litigated upon by the highest court in the land.
“If the court then finds governors, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and states liable, then we cross that bridge when we get there.
“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 not acting in public interest.
“We believe he is acting in personal selfish interest that will ultimately become clear,” Fayemi added.