Consultant tackles governors over $418m Paris Club refund fee

...says firm is owed only $68 million ...alleges NGF collected $100 million for elections in some states

Ned Nwoko, the lead consultant to states and local governments on the Paris Club debt refunds, said the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) led by Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State governor is being economical with the truth, regarding the $418 million consultancy fee.

Nwoko who spoke at a press conference in Abuja at the weekend said, the money owed the consultants was $68 million and not $418 million as been bandied in the public space.

“The outstanding fees owed my firm with regards to last work done for the states is approximately $68mUSD and not $418mUSD as maliciously sought to be conveyed by Fayemi and co,” he said.

“Our original claims calculated based on agreed terms was well in excess of $300mUSD. We offered huge discount on the entitlement to accept the $68m.”

The $418 million Paris Club debt refund fee has been a subject of controversy between the NGF and Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in the last weeks.

Fayemi, the NGF chairman while reading out the communique’ of the forum after their meeting recently, described the position of Malami on the $418 million Paris Club contractors’ fee as “fraudulent and self-serving.”

The forum which insisted that the deductions for the payment of the said consultancy were illegal, especially as the matter is before the courts, also said Malami was not acting in public interest.

“The forum extensively reviewed the purported attempt by the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council, to effect illegal payment of the sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancies in respect to the Paris Club Refunds to state and local governments, the communique’ read in parts.

Read also: $418m Paris Club payment: Malami’s action fraudulent, self-serving — Governors

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice had also said NGF had no justification to reject the proposed deductions of $418 million from the Paris Club refund.

According to him, the governors originally created the liability whose payment they had also indemnified, hence all the “noise making that is now being generated arising from the Governors forum” is not necessary.

Speaking further on the matter, Nwoko alleged that NGF under former Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara state had demanded and received the sum of $100 million to prosecute elections in some states.

He also alleged that when he submitted a bill of $350 million as the consultancy fee, the state governors demanded to be paid 50 percent of it before it could be accepted.

Nwoko said Yari, the then chairman of the forum had told him that the money was needed to prosecute elections in Bauchi, Ekiti and Ondo states.

“During an altercation on one occasion during the several meetings with Governor Yari Abubakar I confronted him about the unconscionable quest to appropriate $86.5m and N19.4 billion.

“He claimed it was not for his personal use but was needed for the purposes of the elections in Bauchi, Ekiti and Ondo elections. Additionally, it should be recalled how some these monies found their way to some of the leadership of the National Assembly at the time.

Read also: Cash-strapped Nigeria prioritises disputed Paris Club payment

“EFCC was able to clamp down and recover some of the money funneled away by the NGF. Most these frauds are still subject of investigation as well as civil and criminal litigations including our action against the NGF and the Federal Government in Suit No, FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017

“It is important to state that the various state governments issued written instructions to the Federal Ministry of Finance authorising it to deduct at source and pay to the NGF 5% of the sum due each respective state as legal fees. Two sets of letters were issued. The first set of letters were dated 7th or 8th November 2016 as the case may be. The second batch of letters were variously dated 28th and 29th November 2016.

“The role of the NGF in the process of the federal government refunds is beyond speculation from the foregoing. The disposition of Governor Fayemi is therefore misleading. It has progressed and degenerated to the point of casting aspersions and personal slur on fellow public officers discharging the responsibilities of their public office,” he stated.

Nwoko while expressing shock that Fayemi said such indemnity is not valid and binding on NGF, said his team will do everything possible to enforce fully, the judgment which has been partly honoured since the NGF chairman like his predecessor is “blackmailing everybody locally.”

He said: “From the foregoing certain issues stand out: Refunds to states did not start with this Federal Government.
In 2013 when Judgment was entered in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/130/2013 the President Buhari led Federal

“Does the current NGF Chairman know that the sum of $86.5mUSD and N19.4billion consultancy/legal fees was paid to NGF. The agreements and contracts in issue were agreed before the AGF assumed office.

“It is false that the NGF did not act or represent the state governors over the current round of refund on the Paris Club. It is also false that past regimes refused to pay the consultancy fees. Refunds started under the Obasanjo regime. If the NGF had paid in accordance with agreement this would have been averted.

“The NGF chairman, Governor Fayemi said there was no court Order of mandamus against the Federal Ministry of Finance and Attorney General. By Court Order dated 21st July, 2021 Federal High Court compelled Finance Minister, DMO DG and HAGF to either pay the value or issue Promissory Notes.

“The Governors gave the Federal Government Indemnity. The 1st investigation over this matter was at the instance of the AGF.

“Claims that states and local governments have not been fully paid notwithstanding that states have been paid $10billion following from the litigation I commenced In 2014 and LGAs $3.1billion following from the litigation I commenced In 2013.

“There is no court judgment in favour of NGF against either Linas International Limited or Ned Nwoko Solicitors. On the contrary we have judgements against them which they are trying to circumvent by all means.”

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