A major row is brewing in Abuja, Nigeria’s nation capital, following the refusal of the Accountant-General of the Federation to comply with President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive to pay $350 million to consultants.
The consultants worked for states to reclaim $2,689,279,365 as final payment arising from the refund of Paris Club loans by the Federal Government.
The Obasanjo administration unilaterally deducted from them and paid out in order to get debt relief from the powerful European financial group.
Apart from the Presidency directive to the Accountant-General of the Federation to cough out the sum to the consultants, the High Court had also ordered him to pay the money to those who computed the amount due each state and local government council in the country as a result of the refund of the loan.
In a bid to get the presidential directive implemented without any delay, Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, and Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President, wrote separately to the AGF, giving him specific instruction on what to do in respect of the refunds but he declined to act.
But findings indicate that the Accountant-General is relying on a contradictory oral directive given to him by Abdullaziz Yari, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and Governor of Zamfara State, not to release the $350 million set aside for consultants’ fee, without clearance by him.
It will be recalled that the Chief of Staff, COS, to the President, Abba Kyari had in a letter dated June 28, 2018, confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the settlement of all claims related to the Paris Club loan reimbursement.
Accordingly, Malami, in his letter dated July 11, 2018, and another letter dated August 20, 2018 (in response to request for legal opinion by the Minister of Finance), identified some 3rd party claimants, who were entitled to be paid various amounts as consultancy/legal fees for the services they rendered to states and local governments in relation to the Paris Club refund.
Malami noted that parties to the suit, including Nwodo and the NGF, agreed on a consent judgment on May 9, 2017 “to the effect that Nwodo is entitled to be paid a negotiated percentage on every refund made by the Federal Government to the states.”
Malami’s letter noted: “Ned Nwodo, covered under paragraph 5 of my letter dated July 11, 2018 has stated that, in view of the unwillingness of the NGF to negotiate and pay him his full entitlement in line with the consent judgment, he is reverting to his initial claim of $71,936,881.36.
“He is therefore, seeking for the payment of the sum of $68,658,192.83 as outstanding sum due to him from NGF.”