Paris Club refund: Govs accuse Malami of supporting consultants against states

•Ask him to explain why this particular judgment debts are given unusual attention, priority

By Henry Umoru

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF,  has accused the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, of alleged involvement in the controversial $418 million request by consultants on the Paris Club refund.

The governors’ accusation is contained  in a statement signed by the Head of Media and Public Affairs of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo.

Recall that last Friday, a Federal High Court had in Abuja, stopped the federal government from deducting $418 million from the bank accounts of the 36 states of the federation.

But according to the NGF spokesman, the decision of the AGF to throw its weight behind the consultants who had been battling desperately to grab $418 million from the accounts of states and local governments raised questions of propriety and spirit of justice.

The statement read:  “The attention of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, has been drawn to a statement issued by the media aide to the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Umar Gwandu, on Friday, November 5, 2021, published in a national daily of same date in support of deductions of humongous state resources amounting to $418 million from the Federation Account.

“The payments are made in favour of private contractors and/or consultants for alleged work done to the Paris Club Refunds to the states and local governments. Since the Attorney General of the Federation has not contradicted his aide, it is, therefore, deemed that the statement was issued with his authorization and consent.

“We need to state quickly that when we first read this press release, we had to double-check to be sure it was not authored by a lawyer representing either one or all the promissory notes recipients.

“The AGF is supposed to be the chief arbiter in all matters concerning Nigerians, especially the poor masses of this country. It is incumbent upon him to, not just ensure that justice is done, but that justice is seen to have been done.

“The undue haste, with which the statement was issued even before the service on the AGF of the court processes and the order dated November 5, 2021, restraining the Federal Government, seems to suggest that there is a special relationship between the Office of the AGF and the consultants over and above Nigerian citizens, whose interest the AGF as the chief law officer of the federation is statutorily bound to always protect.

“The statement also suggests that the restraining order issued last Friday not only unsettled preconceived plans and angered the unnamed ‘government officers’ referred to by the media aide.”

Barkindo said Malami’s claim that he intervened to pay the contractors to avoid execution of the judgments against the federal government resources was false.

He said also that the NGF and LGAs sought to transfer their liability to the federal government, adding hat there was no liability to transfer in the first place and that none existed.

The NGF spokesman said the governors did not provide any undertaking or indemnity to the federal government to act on their behalf as represented by the AGF.

Barkindo  advised Malami to remain neutral and protect scarce public resources, instead of taking sides with the consultants.

“Let him advise 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,” the statement adds.

“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 to Nigeria by the Paris Club in 2005 was meant to enable her to 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,” the NGF scribe said.”

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