The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Thursday, said the state governors operating under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have no justification to protest against deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to the consultants they hired.
He said this while featuring at the Ministerial Media Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister told the governors that they created the liability whose payment they had also indemnified.
Malami, while reacting to the furore over the recent deductions made from the refund, said when the NGF made a request for the refund, one of the components was the settlement of the consultants who were engaged by the forum.
He recounted that the governors initially made part payment to the consultants when the Paris Club refund was paid to the states.
The minister said the governors stopped payment when they sought an out of court settlement.
Malami said this led to request to the President to make the payment to the consultants, a request he added, was then passed on to the Office of the AGF for legal opinion.
He said it was discovered that there was no element of fraud involved after being subjected to necessary checks, adding that the indemnity of the governors was also sought and received.
He said this resulted to the decision to make the payment.
The minister, while reacting to a question on the issue, said: “On the issue of Paris Club that is raised, you mentioned that there exists a presidential directives that payments should not be made and then in breach of that position, directives payments were perhaps maybe arising from the conspiracy between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice payments have been made.
“I think you need to be informed first, as to the antecedents, prevailing circumstances and how the liability arose. But one thing I’m happy to state, which I want to reiterate having stated same earlier, is the fact that the Office of the Attorney General and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has not, indeed, incurred any major judgment debt for the period of seven years it has been on.
“Now, coming to the antecedents, background of the Paris Club. The liability or judgement debts related to Paris Club was indeed a liability created by the Governors Forum in their own right. How do I mean? The Governors Forum comprising of all the governors sat down, commonly agreed on the engagement of consultants to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery of the Paris Club. So, it was the Governors Forum under the federal government in the first place that engaged the consultants.
“Two, when eventually, successes were recorded associated with the refund, associated with Paris Club, the governors collectively and individually presented a request to the federal government for the fund. And among the components of the claim presented for the consideration of the federal government was a component related to the payment of these consultants that are now constituting the subject of contention.
“So, the implication of that is that the governors in their own right recognized the consultants, recognized their claim and presented such claim to the federal government.
“Three, when the claims were eventually processed and paid to the Governors Forum, they indeed on their own, without the intervention of the federal government, took steps to make part payments to the consultants, acknowledging their liability over same.
“And then four, when eventually they made such payments, at a point they took a decision to stop the payment. The consultants instituted an action in court against the Governors Forum. And what happened in court? They submitted to consent judgment. They asked and urged the Court to allow them settle out of court.
“The court granted them an opportunity to settle. They committed to terms of settlement in writing, they signed the terms of settlement, agreeing and conceding that such payments be made to the consultants.
“And then five, thereafter, the federal government under the administration of President Buhari was requested to comply with the judgment and effect payment.
“The President passed all the requests of the governors to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration. I suggested to the President on the face value of the judgment and the undertones associated with the consultancy services, it was my opinion, the same treatment we meted to P&ID, that let us subject this claim, the consent judgment to investigation by the agencies of the government.
“Mr. President approved, I directed the EFCC and DSS to look into these claims and report back to the office of the Attorney General. And these agencies reported and concluded that there are no problem undertone associated with it. The government may continue to sanction the payment dependent. Now, that was the background.”