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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

$6.9 billion Paris-London Clubs loan refund; the intrigues as Governors fight back

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**How billionaire’s name cropped up
**The role of famous lawmaker

Ibrahim Magu

In the river of allegations, accusations and counter-accusations over part of the $6.9 billion approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for disbursements to 36 States from the Paris-London-Club loan refunds, everyday.ng has pieced together how the name of a prominent billionaire, and a famous lawmaker got thrown into the mix of a desperate attempt by a government anti-graft agency to find out how the distribution may have broken the country’s laws.
The refund is meant to make up for the excess deductions the  federal government made over Paris-London Club loans.
Worried about the mudslinging going on, the governors, through the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), issued a statement at the weekend insisting nothing illegal happened In the disbursements to states, contrary to a rash of media reports.
Beyond the statement of the NGF, it was learnt that Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who heads the NGF was able to convince President Buhari last year that the States needed money badly to meet burdening financial obligations and pay thousands of workers who were being owed.
It would be recalled that though former Governors Saraki and Rotimi Amaechi as heads of NGF pursued the payments in their time, they could not pull through what Aziz did with Buhari. The release of the funds last year saved most States from the quagmire they found themselves. Many of theit workers were able to spend Christmas with wide smiles, though some governors were accused of mismanaging the funds.
Aziz got Buhari to approve 50% of the refunds, but because there was paucity of funds only 25%, which came to a little over N388 billion, could be raised from federal coffers, after other obligations were deducted. The President was however said to have issued a caveat that no State should get more than N14.5 billion.
Of the released sum, consultants, who worked on the documentation for years, were also paid. One of the consultants, who was also a former managing director of a bank, paid a loan he owed a billionaire. He was alleged to have made the transfer to the billionaire’s account without informing him first.
“That was how his name (the billionaire) cropped up and investigators beamed the searchlight on him. Though he promptly returned the money, someone still ensured he was smeared for whatever reason,” a source said.
The source suggested also that the other smear on a lawmaker was because he facilitated the quick release of the funds by “talking with his colleagues” not to create problems for the disbursement.
NGF spokesman, Mr. AbdulRazaque Barkindo, in his weekend statement maintains that nothing illegal was done “in the entire process leading to the final disbursement to states of the first tranche Paris-London Clubs repayment of the excess deductions from states’ coffers and the refund of their loans.
His statement added: “The Paris London Clubs loan refund has been on the cards since 2005. Successive state governors had tried to get reimbursement for the excess deductions from their states in the past but did not succeed. The failure resulted from a number of reasons, varying from one state to the other. It is therefore to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum’s credit that this set of governors was able to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to authorize the release of the funds for disbursement to deserving states.
“President Buhari’s desire to reflate the economy at a time when states were insolvent and unable to pay salaries was why he acceded to the request by the current group of governors that the money be released to the states. It is true that there were conditions attached to the disbursements but these arose from the collective and voluntary resolution of the governors and not any draconian order from any quarters. It shows that the governors themselves are responsible, sensitive and compassionate enough to understand the plight of Nigerians that they govern and therefore work in the interest of their people.
“It is important to state that in approving the repayment, due process was diligently followed and each and every approving authority, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the Auditor General of the Federation as well as the National Assembly were duly informed from the beginning to the end of all the transactions. Nothing illegal was done and no monies was paid into the personal account of any Governor, legislator or top officials at any of the levels and arms of government in the country.
“This brings us to the issue of consultants who facilitated the process. Indeed, a number of consultants were saddled with the task of verifying the amounts due to each of the states. These consultants were recruited by the respective states but were eventually collapsed into a consortium of only a few, even though the others who did not make it to the final group were reimbursed according to their input.
“It may interest the readers that many more consultants throughout the country are still insisting that they did work on this same Paris-London Clubs repayments since a decade ago and that they are entitled to some compensation as well.
“Many of them had actually and verifiably done some work in the past and negotiated a fee of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, with the different states that engaged them. It was therefore immoral and impossible to deny each their due, provided their input is verified and justified
“It should be noted that if the Federal Government under the watch of President Buhari had found anything corrupt, illegal and unpatriotic about the payment or the utilization of the first tranche of the Paris-London Clubs Fund repayment to states, it would not have approved the payment of the second tranche to the states. After all, we all know the unimpeachable level of commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari on the issues of transparency and accountability. In any case, those writing those fictitious reports on the payment have also acknowledged that the president had insisted on the verification of the process of utilization of the first tranche before the second is approved for release. Note also most importantly at this juncture, that every decision that was taken in respect of all the transactions was with the full consent and blessing of the 36 governors.
“We therefore find the insinuation in the media that monies went into the private accounts of seven unidentified governors as not only preposterous but mischievous. This is more so because none of the reports was able to identify a single governor, not to talk of seven. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) itself had issued a release exculpating all the governors, saying it was investigating the matter further. But instead of allowing the EFCC to conclude its investigations, a particular section of the media resorted to this unsavory falsehood which puts the media and its practitioners in bad light.”
On fresh reports Sunday that Governors were bickering over another tranche billed to be released, Barkindo said in an sms to media houses on Sunday afternoon: “Contrary to the erroneous insinuation which suddenly engulfed the public space yesterday, that governors are divided over the next tranche of payment the funds were covered by the first approvals and does not call for any reviews of the status quo.
“There has been no need for new consultants or review of the last agreements. There is therefore no iota of truth there.”

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