August 18, (THEWILL) – The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has accused the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), of serving selfish interest, over his position on deduction of $418 million from the Paris Club refund.
The governors had in 2021, secured an order from a federal high court in Abuja, restraining the federal government from deducting the money from states’ accounts for the purpose of paying the disputed debt.
THEWILL reports that Malami, last Thursday, claimed that the Governors had no basis for disputing the payments.
Speaking when he featured on the Ministerial Media Briefing, organised by the Presidential Communications Team, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Malami reminded the governors that they created the liability whose payment they have also indemnified.
The AGF said when the NGF made a request for the refund, one of the component was the settlement of the consultants who were engaged by the forum.
He explained that the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to his office, conceding and agreeing that the payment should be made.
But responding to the remarks of the AGF in a communiqué issued after a meeting on Wednesday, the governors said all the claims made by the AGF were lies and that his actions are fraudulent.
Specifically, the governors described as self-serving and fraudulent, Malami’s claim that they have no basis to reject the proposed deduction of $418 million from the Paris Club refund.
Chairman of the NGF and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, who stated the governors’ position after a meeting of the forum at the presidential villa, said Malami is acting in personal, selfish interest that would ultimately become clear when the matter is fully addressed before the court.
The NGF vowed that they would pursue the matter to the highest court of the land.
The communiqué reads: “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 judgement 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 subjudice 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 state 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 fine governors, and the Nigerian governors forum and state 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 strong 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 university unions, the governors appealed to both parties to sheath their sword and reach an amicable resolution.
“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 the strike,” he said.
On the state of the economy, the governor 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 suggestions to implement a set of immediate actions to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions in the country.”