Seven governors have questions to answer in the alleged diversion of part of the N388.304billion London-Paris Club refunds into two accounts opened by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), The Nation has learnt.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has uncovered N19billion in one of the accounts. The other is a domiciliary account, which contains a yet unspecified amount of money.
One of those invited for interrogation has admitted handing over a huge sum of money to a principal officer of the National Assembly after changing it into dollars, according to the preliminary report on the management of the refunds.
According to a source, who pleaded not to be named because he is not permitted to talk to the media, EFCC detectives discovered that while about 2% of the funds was paid to consultants who allegedly assisted in computing what was due to each state, 3% was shared by some governors under “curious circumstances”.
The source said: “The detectives have uncovered the two accounts opened in the name of the NGF and the signatories to same.
“We are looking into circumstances behind such huge deposits from London-Paris Club refunds into these accounts.
“The payment of 2% of the refunds to consultants and 3% to some governors which was rated as “curious” by investigators have been confirmed. We also discovered that some of the governors nominated these consultants.”
The source declined to name the seven governors, stressing that the details will be released as soon as the investigation is concluded.
Responding to a question, the source said one of those questioned actually admitted that he changed some of the funds into dollars and handed it over to a principal officer of the National Assembly.
Besides, he insisted that the EFCC had no any agenda against the governors, adding: “It has no basis to run the NGF down at all, but you should know that the Presidency is interested in how these London-Paris Club refunds were spent.
“We know the governors have immunity, but certainly NGF does not enjoy such constitutional protection. We are looking at what informed the transfer of such funds into the accounts of the NGF and for what purposes.
“Once the purposes are in line with statutory financial regulations and the EFCC is satisfied, the case is closed. But where there are cases of diversion and stealing of public funds, the law will take its course.”
The Federal Government released N388.304billion of the N522.74 billion funds to 35 states as refunds of overdeductions on London-Paris Club loans.
States on top of the list with huge reimbursements are those controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) contrary to their claims of being oppressed by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The big earners are Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Katsina, Kaduna, Lagos, Imo, Jigawa, Borno, Niger, Bauchi,and Benue.
Only Kano State and the FCT did not benefit from the reimbursement.
Ondo was only paid 50 per cent of its refunds (N6,513,392,932.28) because of leadership change in the state which will soon lead to the inauguration of the Governor-elect, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu.
A breakdown of the list of top beneficiaries of the refunds is as follows: Akwa Ibom – N14,500,000,000.00; Bayelsa – N14,500,000,000.00; Delta—N14,500,000,000.00; Katsina -N14,500,000,000.00; Lagos – N14,500,000,000.00; Rivers
-N14,500,000,000.00; Kaduna – N14,362,416,363.24; Borno-N13,654,138,849.49; Bauchi – N12,792,664,403.93; Benue – N12,749,689,453.61; Sokoto—N11,980,499,096.97; Osun– N11,744,237,793.56; Anambra– N11,386,281,466.35; Edo– N11,329,495,462.04; Cross River – N11,300,139,741.28; Kogi – N11,211,573,328.19; and Kebbi – N11,118,149,054.10.
The Federal Government reached a conditional agreement to pay 25% of the amounts claimed, subject to a cap of N14.5 billion to any given state.
Balances due thereafter will be revisited when fiscal conditions improve.
“Mr. President’s overriding concern is for the welfare of the Nigerian people. considering the fact that many States are owing salaries and pension, causing considerable hardship,” the government said.
THE NATION had exclusively reported that the presidency was uncomfortable with the funds management by governors.
A source in the Presidency, who spoke in confidence, said: “President Muhammadu Buhari has lived up to his pledge to ease salary crises in all the states by releasing N388.304billion to 35 states.
“The agreement between the Federal Government and the governors was very clear. While 50 per cent of the amount released shall be used to offset outstanding salary and pension arrears, the remaining 50 per cent would be used for the payment of other obligations.
“Some governors have however reneged on this agreement. Security reports available to the Presidency showed that Governor Ayodele Fayose paid only one month out of eight-month salary arrears.
“The governor went ahead to pay a curious 13-month salary to Ekiti workers. Yet, he got N8.877billion refund.
“Instead of accounting for what he used the loan refund for, he attacked the Federal Government on hardship in the country. The relevant agencies are monitoring development in Ekiti and some states.”
Responding to a question, another source in government said: “It is however unfortunate that some governors underdeclared the refunds made to them. Some of them were also discovered to be giving spurious analysis to cover up the actual figures.
“In fact, some states changed the agreement overnight. A state said the President asked states to use at least 25 per cent of their London and Paris Club refuns to offset salary arrears.”