One of the consultants hired by the states and local governments to ensure the recovery of excess deductions related to the Paris Club debt, on Saturday, alleged that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum demanded and received a total of $100m for elections in Ekiti, Ondo and Bauchi states.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the Lead Consultant, Linas International Limited, Ned Nwoko, alleged that after submitting $300m bill as consultancy fees, the state governors demanded 50 per cent of the amount and allegedly threatened to “frustrate” the payment if the consultants did not play ball.
Nwoko further revealed that a former chairman of the NGF demanded the 50 per cent payment for elections in the three states.
He, however, stated that $100m was eventually paid to the governors after an intervention by the Federal Ministry of Justice.
He added that the amount owed Linas International was $68m and not $418m touted publicly.
Nwoko further distanced his company from the $418m, which he termed as a miscalculation.
He also backed the Attorney-General of the Federation’s claim that the governors had indemnified the payment as he was only working to ensure compliance with the law.
According to him, the governors diverted refunds meant for their local governments except five states namely; Delta, Bauchi, Kwara, Benue, Ondo and the Federal Capital Territory.
The lead consultant also accused the current Chairman of the NGF, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, of telling “a litany of lies” over payment to the consultants.
He said, “I am compelled to embark on this public engagement to debunk the litany of lies, spin and false narratives that have been dished out to abuse the minds of the undiscerning public by the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi, against the payment of consultancy fees legitimately earned and owed my firm for services rendered and which the states and local governments have fully been refunded.
“The outstanding fees owed my firm with regards to the last work done for the states is approximately $68m and not $418m as maliciously sought to be conveyed by Fayemi and co. Our original claims calculated based on agreed terms were well in excess of $300m. We offered a huge discount on the entitlement to accept the $68m.”
Going down memory lane to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, the businessman outlined his involvement in securing refunds for states and local governments, including Adamawa and Taraba states
Nwoko said he advised Obasanjo to opt out of the Paris Club and halt deductions from states’ allocations.
“It is to the eternal credit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the Federal Government halted the excess charges and over deductions as well as began refunding identified over deductions and excess charges. Yar’Adua did and President Jonathan did as well,” he explained.
The Linas boss, who said he had recovered $3.1bn for local government councils, which hired him, noted that the NGF brought him onboard to extend his services to state governments.
This decision, he said, was predicated on his success with the local councils, prompting the Federal Government to agree to the commencement of refunds in 2016.
He stated, “The Federal Government in the refunds paid money into accounts provided by the state governors for the receipt of the refunds accruable to the states. The governors also provided accounts to receive the refunds accruable to the local governments.
“In the first tranche of refunds to states and local governments, the Federal Government wrongly paid the consultancy fee to the NGF. The consultancy fee paid to the Nigerian Governors’ Forum was $86.5m and N19.4bn.
“While we were labouring to secure the refunds for the benefit of state and local governments, Governor Yari Abubakar developed a parallel scheme to misappropriate the consultancy fees. As recently as 2016, the NGF in a letter to the Accountant-General of the Federation dated June 22, 2016, claimed it appointed a consultant.
“During an altercation on one occasion during the several meetings with Governor Yari Abubakar, I confronted him about the unconscionable quest to appropriate the $86.5m and N19.4bn. He claimed it was not for his personal use, but was needed for the purposes of the Bauchi, Ekiti and Ondo elections.
“Additionally, it should be recalled how some of these monies found their way to some of the leadership of the National Assembly at the time. The EFCC was able to clamp down and recover some of the money funnelled away by the NGF.
“Most of these frauds are still subject of investigation as well as civil and criminal litigation, including our action against the NGF and the Federal Government in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017. It is important to state that the various state governments issued written instructions to the Federal Ministry of Finance authorising it to deduct at source and pay to the NGF five per cent of the sum due each state as legal fees.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, while briefing State House correspondents on Thursday, August 11, declared that the governors originally created the liability whose payment they also indemnified.
But at the last NGF meeting at the State House Banquet Hall on Wednesday, August 17, 2022, Fayemi argued that the governors provided no indemnity.
He also claimed that the AGF was insistent on paying the consultants for self-serving purposes, adding that the matter was sub judice, a claim Nwoko debunked on Saturday.
According to him, the agreements and judgment being executed had been reached before the current regime.