The crisis of interest between State governors and the Federal Government over deductions made in respect of the Paris Club Debt Refunds may have taken a fresh dimension as the Nigeria Governors Forum, on Wednesday, lashed back at the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami over recent comments credited to him regarding the $418million Paris debt refunds.
The Governors after their deliberations at the Presidential Villa Abuja, accused Malami of orchestrating the deductions from their funds to settle the consultancy fees, from a point of personal interest, a development they were ready to fight in the law court.
Chairman of the NGF, who doubles as Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi, who read out the communique, also accused Malami of selfishness and self-serving agenda.
Recall that Malami, who featured at the weekly briefings coordinated by the Presidential Media Team, had stated that there was no basis for agitation by the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) concerning deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to the consultants they hired.
Malami had also described the governors’ action as akin to crying over spilled milk.
While reacting to the Paris fund controversy, the AGF reminded the governors that they created the liability whose payment, he said, they have also indemnified.
In addressing the controversy over deductions made from the refund, the Minister explained that when the NGF made a request for the refund, one of the components was the settlement of the consultants whose services were engaged by the Governors’ Forum.
Malami went down memory lane, recalling when the Paris Club refund was paid to the States, noting that the governors initially made part payment to the consultants, but explained that the governors later decided to stop payment while asking for an out of court settlement.
According to the AGF, the development then culminated in an appeal in the form of a request to the President to aid to facilitate the payment to the consultants, a request he said was consequently transmitted to the Office of the AGF for legal advice.
He explained that after subjecting the request to critical checks, it was discovered that there was no element of fraud involved.
But in the NGF’s reaction, Fayemi who read the outcome of the meeting as contained in the communique said: “Governors extensively reviewed the purported attempts 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 legislative council to effect illegal payment of a sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancy in respect to the Paris Club refund, to state and local governments.
“The forum set up a committee comprising the chairman, the governor of Ekiti State, the vice chairman, the governor of Ondo State, the governor of Plateau State, the governor of Nasarawa State, and the governor of Ebonyi State to interface with the committee set up by Mr. President to review the matter.
“But the position of the Governors’ Forum is clear and unequivocal. Although this matter is subjudice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of a matter that is still being pursued in the court. We’re constrained by the manner in which the honorable attorney has been going around various media houses and purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which governors had committed themselves to and agreed to, even though he is very much aware that that’s not the case.
“And we reject all of the claims that he has made on this issue. And we also insist that the 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 would take every constitutional and legal means to ensure that these purported consultancy are fully litigated upon by the highest court in the land.
“If the courts now find governors, and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and the States liable, then we will cross that bridge when we get there. As far as we’re concerned, this is a matter that governors feel very strongly about and we do not believe that the Attorney General of the Federation is acting in the public interest, we believe he is acting in personal, selfish interest that will ultimately become clear when this matter is fully addressed, in the law court.”