The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has described as half-truth a claim by the lead consultant in the recovery of over-deductions from Paris Club and London Club debts buyback funds, Ned Nwoko, that his firm was owed $68 million and not $418 million, as alleged by the governors. Nwoko stated this in response to controversy that trailed his company’s demand for fees from the states and local governments in the country in Abuja on Saturday.The lead consultant at Linas International had frowned on recent comments by the chairman of NGF, and governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, regarding the Paris Club refund.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had featured in the weekly briefings coordinated by the Presidential Media Team, on August 11, where he spoke extensively on issues surrounding the refund. Malami stated that there was no basis for agitation by the NGF concerning deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to the consultants they hired.
Malami also described the governors’ action as akin to crying over spilled milk.However, the governors, after their deliberations last Wednesday, accused the minister of orchestrating deductions from their funds to settle consultancy fees.In their reaction yesterday to the outcome of a press conference by Nwoko, Director, Media and Public Affairs, at the NGF secretariat, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, said the governors were not surprised by the attempts by Nwoko to white-wash lies and make them look as truth.
Bello-Barkindo said, “Not surprisingly, the desperate, spurious and futile advocacy mounted and coordinated by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) on behalf of the so-called Paris Club Consultants to justify the plundering of the humongous sum of $418.9 million from the public treasury of the states and local governments continued on Saturday 20th August 2022, when Ned Nwoko, in a press statement, attempted to blur and obfuscate the real facts and legal issues in controversy by dishing out blatant lies and half-truths.”
According to the governors, “The facts are and will always remain: whether the claims of the consultants are lawful and justified under our constitution and whether any judgement, which is a subject of a pending appeal, can be enforced or executed as the consultants now attempt to do?“If both questions are answered in the negative, it does not matter if the contracts leading to the claims were entered into by any public official, past or present. No person or persons can agree to blatantly circumvent our constitution and get away with it. Neither is the period when judgements were obtained of consequence in this case.
“Undoubtedly, the salient facts on the fraud associated with the Paris Club refunds can never be changed by a thousand press statements by the AGF or any of the consultants. As the judgements of the appellate courts, particularly, that of the Supreme Court, have begun to expose the creepiness and unlawful nature of the consultants claims; it is not surprising that they are now afflicted by dizzy spells, seriously discomforted and are now driven by desperation to ensure that the plundering and fleecing of the state is quickly completed before the determination of the pending proceedings in the appellate and other courts in order to foist a situation of frustration and helplessness on the states.”
The statement added, “This is obvious as the consultants are not in a position to restore the funds to the states if they lose on appeal, as it is becoming apparent. It is, therefore, needless joining issues with Ned Nwoko or, indeed, any of the consultants. However, it is imperative to debunk patent lies dished out in order to disabuse the minds of the undiscerning public.”
The governors also argued, “While Nwoko strenuously tried to single out and justify his own bogus claim of $68 million saying the total amount, which all the consultants working in concert, collectively seek and claim from the states and local governments, albeit unlawfully is $418,953,690.59.”The governors gave a breakdown of the $418 million as follows: Ned Munir Nwoko ($68,658,192.83); Dr. Ted Isighohi Edwards ($159,000,000); Panic Alert Security Systems Limited ($47,831,920); Riok Nigeria Limited ($142,028,941.95); Prince Orji Orizu ($1,219,440.45), Barrister Olaitan Bello ($215,195.36)
Additionally, the governors stated that it was instructive to note that all the claims by the consultants were rooted in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/130/13 between: Linas International Ltd & 35 ORS and Federal Government of Nigeria & 3 ORS in which Nwoko instituted and was awarded a bogus 20 per cent of the sum of $3,188,078,505.96 from the states and local governments Paris Club refunds.The governors said the judgement had been challenged on appeal by the states and NGF in Suit No CA/ABJ/PRE/ROEA/CV/327M1/2022: Attorney General Of Abia State & 35 Ors Vs Linas International Ltd & 239 Ors.
The governors said the comment by Nwoko “was therefore to separate his own claim of $68 million as if it is not related to the claims of other consultants is being clever by half. All the consultants claim to have rendered the same or similar service of helping the states and local governments to recover over-deducted Paris Club refunds by the federal government.
“Their cases, therefore, rise or fall together. A poison of the part is a poison of the whole. What is unlawful remains unlawful. Its origin is immaterial and the part or role played by all parties separately or collectively at all times is unlawful and cannot be remedied.“As it is common with all unholy alliances, it does appear that the romance between the consultants and their determination to fight together under the AGF’s tacit coordination to pull out of the states the sum of $418,953,690.59 may have suffered a crack.
“This must have led Nwoko to address the press alone and single out his unmerited claim of $68 million as justifiable. This is also coming just on the heel of a similar press briefing by the AGF, a few days ago during which he stoutly defended all the consultants and berated the states for opposing or delaying the prompt payment of the sum claimed.”
They pointed out that what Nwoko did not tell members of the public was that, “If all the local governments engaged him directly as claimed and if he acted for the states through his lawyers and the NGF requested that he extends the services to all the states as also claimed, what different service did Ted Iseghohi-Edwards, his collaborator and conspirator (indicted by the EFCC) render for which he is being paid the whooping sum of $159,000,000 also from the Paris Club refund?
“In his desperation to justify his claim, Ned Nwoko peddled untruths that his team was a member of the federal government committee constituted to reconcile figures under the Paris Club refunds to the states and local governments. That is patently false.“The report of that committee dated May, 2007 shows that only the FMF, OAGF, CBN, DMO and RMFC (secretariat) were members. Private persons, who were not privy could not have been included in a committee that was meant to examine purely public financial records. It was this committee that did all the work now claimed by Ned Nwoko and the other consultants.
“While it is possible that the unlawful scheme hatched by the consultants to feast on public funds may have over the years been executed with the cooperation of enemies of the state without anyone raising an eye brow, the bubble has now burst and the time to account has come. It is an irony that“Ned Nwoko and other consultants, who flaunt judgements of courts as justification for payment are now uncomfortable and jittery, when the same judgements are tested on appeal. Let him reserve all his vituperations against the NGF chairman and canvass them on appeal as the law may permit him.
“No professional advocacy or media campaign to hoodwink the public can change the law. We are not unmindful of the ridiculous claim by one of consultants that it was his media campaign that swayed a Federal High Court Judgment in favour of the NGF.
“Interestingly, the public which is the greatest victim in the mismanagement of scare public resources, has since been well-informed and is on red alert to avert and stop what is apparently an attempt by some ravenous rent seekers masquerading as consultants to further exacerbate the economic woes of citizens under the prevailing dire economic situation.
“The use of libellous language on the person of the Chairman of NGF, who has refused to be compromised and has firmly stood his ground on the unconstitutional and unlawful nature of the consultants’ claims, is not helpful to their case either.“The NGF is an apolitical organisation that operates under defined principles targeted at good governance. Its role in the whole of this Paris Club refund debacle to consultants is to ensure that Nigeria citizens are not unlawfully deprived of resources meant for their development. NGF will not, therefore, waste its valuable time to defend unsubstantiated allegations against individuals or persons who are in a position to defend themselves.
“If Ned Nwoko is sure of his facts, he is at liberty to approach the necessary authorities to bring to justice any person or persons and all conspirators (including himself) who were allegedly involved in misappropriating public resources for campaign financing.“The NGF hereby states unequivocally that it has not at any time been involved in or been in receipt of $100 million or any other funds from Ned Nwoko to finance elections in any state.
“Perhaps, confirming our fears and that of the public that the AGF has abdicated his role as public defender and trustee and become the strongest advocate to the consultants is now evident in Ned Nwoko’s press statement wherein he praised the role played by the AGF describing it as inevitable.
“Ned cannot say that the consultants have no official platform to canvass their case, when the AGF has in spite of public protestation, provided the strongest and most virulent platform to campaign for the expeditious payment of the sums claimed.
“The AGF has addressed and issued over half a dozen press statements justifying why the consultants should be immediately paid. Not even Ned’s solicitors could have done any better.”
The governors said they remained focused and determined to diligently pursue all appeals on the judgements on the Paris Club refunds.
“We urge Ned Nwoko and the other consultants to end the media war and direct all energies towards defending the appeals,” the governors stated.
Culled from THISDAY