Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s attorney general and minister of justice, has argued that state governors have no basis to complain about deductions from the Paris Club refund paid to consultants they hired.
Malami said that the “noise-making” arising from the governors’ forum was not only unjustified, but a clear case of absence of defense
Speaking when he featured on the Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday, the minister reminded the governors that they created the liability whose payment they have also indemnified.
Responding to questions on why despite a presidential directive to suspend the deduction from the Paris Club refund, he has not deemed it fit to enforce the directive as some deductions were been said to be made, he affirmed that when the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) made a request for the refund, one of the component was the settlement of the consultants who were engaged by the forum.
Malami recalled that when the refund was paid to the states, the governors initially made to states, part payment was also made to the consultants..
However, he said the governors later decided to stop payment while asking for an out of court settlement.
The Minister said this resulted to request to the President to make the payment, a request he said, was then passed on to the Office of the AGF for legal opinion.
Malami noted that after being subjected to necessary checks, it was found out that there was no element of fraud involved.
According to him, the indemnity of the governors was also sought and received.
He 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 pirates Club was indeed a liability created by the governor’s forum in their own right.”
Malami future said, “The Governor’s forum comprising of all the governors sat down commonly agreed on the engagement of consultant to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery of the Paris Club. So, it was the governor’s forum under the federal government in the first place that engaged the consultant.
“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 consultant, recognized their claim and presented such claim to the federal government.
“Three, when the claims were eventually processed and paid to the governor’s 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 is an action in court against the governors forum. Ans 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 commit terms of settlement in writing, they signed the terms of settlement, agreeing and conceding that such payments be made to the consultant.
“And then five, thereafter, the federal government under the administration of President Muhammadu 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 metted 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.
“Even at that, we took further steps after receiving these reports from the EFCC among others, to demand for indemnity from the governors. You, as a forum, you incurred this liability, as a forum you submitted to consent judgment. We have subjected this claims to investigation and we have a report, but even at that, we need independent indemnity from you, establishing that it is with your consent and understanding that these payments should be made, in writing.
“And I’m happy to report to you that the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to the Office of the Attorney General, conceding, agreeing and submitting, that the payment should be made.
“Yes, and that was the ground and the basis on which we eventually took a decision by advising the president that the payment should be made. And then along the line, there was a change of leadership of the governors forum. And all the noise making that is now being generated arising from the Governors forum is not only unjustified, but indeed, a clear case of absence of defense.
“But one other point of interest you may wish to note, is the fact that the new leadership of the governors forum instituted an action, even when the federal government was indeed acting on the basis of the judgment of the Supreme Court. They now embarked on a fresh legal suit, challenging the payment, challenging the previous agreement, challenging the indeminity and the court dismissed the application. Their case was dismissed by the Federal High Court.
“So that is the foundation and I’m happy to report one, that the judgment and contention was a judgment that was obtained long before the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami came into office, long before the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came into office.
“It was a product of their own doing and they had it is submitted to judicial proceeding, judgment was entered against them. They have committed to the payment of the money, they have on their own indeed effected part payment. I closed my case and I will not like to answer any further question on that.”