The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has responded to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami over the controversy trailing the payment of consultancy fees amounting to $418 million from the Paris Club refund.
Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo spokesperson of the NGF who spoke on Channels TV Sunrise Daily on Friday, questioned why the AGF was so concerned about private claims to state funds.
In 2021, the governors had obtained 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.
On Thursday, Mr Malami claimed the Governors had no basis for disputing the payments.
He said the consultants were hired by the Governors and that they had taken steps to pay before backtracking and taking the matter to court.
In his response, Bello-Barkindo said the Attorney-General should be more concerned about how the government can fund university education and not funnel money into private pockets.
“There is no component that compels the governors’ forum to pay consultants anything, and there is no agreement between the consultants collectively and governors collectively,” he said.
“The Paris fund money has been exhausted, and the consultants and the attorney general are expecting the money to be deducted from states’ accounts from sources over 52 or 58 months. That is unheard of.
“And what the NGF is saying is that there is no money to be paid and the monies that have been paid are gross errors.
“Where they are asking the monies to be gotten from is the biggest sacrilege. This money belongs to the states, the masses of this country and because you’re powerful, you want money to be taken and given to you.
“That’s why they are using the attorney general of the federation to get the money at the source because the state does not have any reason [to pay].
“What the attorney general is claiming that there is a consent judgement is what the NGF is saying did not exist.
“What the NGF is asking for is evidence of work done. Some of them said they have constructed primary health cares across the country, and other said they have provided boreholes, these are physical things that you can show.
“This matter is in court. The court is the only authority that can determine clearly whether there is a reason for payment or not, why are highly placed lawyers afraid of their own platform?”
UK economy nears recession
Britain’s economy is heading towards recession after a shrink in the second quarter, official data showed on Friday.
UK gross domestic product dropped 0.1 percent in the April-June period after a rise of 0.8 percent in the first quarter, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.
The Bank of England (BoE) expects the economy to enter a year-long recession by the end 2022 as Britons endure a cost-of-living crisis with inflation at its highest level in decades.
“With May’s growth revised down a little and June showing a notable fall, overall the economy shrank slightly in the second quarter,” said ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan.
“Health was the biggest reason the economy contracted as both the (Covid) test and trace and vaccine programmes were wound down, while many retailers also had a tough quarter.”
Morgan said this was “partially offset by growth in hotels, bars, hairdressers and outdoor events across the quarter, partly as a result of people celebrating the Platinum Jubilee” that marked Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne.
The ONS added that the UK economy slumped 0.6 percent in June.
Following Friday’s data, finance minister Nadhim Zahawi said he was “determined to work with the Bank of England to get inflation under control and grow the economy”.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not make “major fiscal interventions” before leaving office next month, his spokesman said on Monday amid calls for immediate government action to tackle Britain’s cost-of-living crisis.
Johnson, back at his desk after a five-day belated honeymoon with wife Carrie in Slovenia last week, has been criticised for being absent as the BoE last week warned of recession.
His trip coincided with Zahawi also being away on holiday, as the central bank hiked interest rates by the biggest margin in nearly three decades in a bid to stem surging inflation.
Johnson, who last month announced he would step down on September 6 following a slew of scandals, is set to hand power to either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak after a summer-long Conservative leadership battle.
Foreign Secretary Truss and Sunak — Zahawi’s predecessor as chancellor of the exchequer — have clashed over how to address the crisis.
Truss plans an emergency budget to lower taxes and to review the independent BoE’s inflation-fighting mandate.
But Sunak said tax cuts financed with more borrowing would force the bank to increase interest rates even more, insisting on the need to maintain fiscal rigour and tame the price pressures first.
Nigeria loses N101bn worth of oil – OPEC
Data from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed on Thursday that Nigeria’s crude oil production plunged by 2.3 million barrels in July 2022 when compared to what the country produced in the preceding month of June.
OPEC stated in its latest Monthly Oil Market Report for August 2022 that crude oil production figures based on direct communication indicated that Nigeria’s output dropped by an average of 74,000 barrels per day in July.
The implication is that for the 31 days in July, the country lost about 2.3 million barrels of crude oil. The organisation further stated that the average cost of Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil, during the month under review was $105.12/barrel.
By losing 2.3 million barrels in July this year, it means Nigeria’s oil earnings fell by about $241.1m or N101.13bn (at the official exchange rate of N419.37/$) in the month under review.
Data from OPEC showed that Nigeria’s oil production in June 2022 was 1.158 million barrels per day, but this dropped to 1.084 million barrels per day in July.
The country had produced 1.024 million barrels per day in May this year, according to figures released by OPEC on Thursday.
The Federal Government, operators and experts have consistently fingered crude oil theft in the Niger Delta as the major reason for Nigeria’s poor output and its continued failure to meet the monthly oil production quota approved by OPEC.
The Chief Executive Officer, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr. Muda Yusuf, blamed the challenges in the oil sector on the high level of insecurity across the country.
This, he said, had continued to discourage investors in the sector, leading to lower production of crude oil and lower earnings for Nigeria despite the increased cost of crude.
He said, “Investors in the oil and gas sector continue to lament the challenges posed by insecurity, oil theft, unstable policies and inappropriate fiscal regimes.
“The downstream sector has continued to be weighed down by the pricing regimes and the regulatory environments which have continued to dim the growth prospects in the sector.”
Meanwhile OPEC stated that crude oil prices dipped in July, as against their costs in June, adding that crude in OPEC Reference Basket fell by $9.17 or 7.8 per cent month-on-month in July to average $108.55/barrel.
“Oil futures prices remained highly volatile in July, amid a sharp drop in liquidity. The ICE Brent front month declined $12.38 or 10.5 per cent in July to average $105.12/barrel and NYMEX WTI declined by $14.96 or 13.1 per cent to average $99.38/barrel,” the global oil cartel stated.