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 Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) 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 $418 million Paris Club 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 to finish 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 NGF concerning deductions from the Paris Club refunds 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.
But in NGF’s reaction, Fayemi, who read the outcome of the meeting as contained in the communiqué, 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 sub judice 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 honourable 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 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 Nigeria Governors’ Forum and 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.”
On the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which is now in its sixth month, the governors appealed to both parties to sheathe their swords and reach amicable resolution. The governors said: “On the prolonged strike by Nigerian universities.
The forum encourages the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities to find meaningful resolutions to the lingering impasse and as proposed to engage with both parties just as we have done in the past in a bid to end in the strike.”
On the state of the economy, the governors said: “Finally, the forum extensively discussed the state of the Nigerian economy and security.
Following a presentation by Mr. Bismarck Rewane, a member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council.”
The forum resolved to immediately engage with the Federal Government and other critical stakeholders, labour, the presidential candidates of political parties and corporate actors on finding resolutions and suggestion to implement a set of immediate actions to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions in the country.”