The Nigerian government had attempted to pay the consultants from state accounts but a court had restrained it from making such deductions
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has accused the Attorney-General of the Federation (HAGF), Abubakar Malami and Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed of working against the public interest by approving the payment of $418 million to private consultants from the accounts of state governments.
Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of NGF disclosed this in a letter to the Federal Executive Council through Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).
The consultants are claiming a percentage of Paris Club refunds as payment for services they said they rendered to the states and local governments.
The Nigerian government had attempted to pay the consultants from state accounts but a court had restrained it from making such deductions until all issues relating to the matter were fully determined.
SaharaReporters had exclusively reported how Malami asked the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele to release $418 million to Linas International Ltd, a company belonging to Prince Ned Nwoko, a former House of Representatives member and other consultants over the Paris Club refund. The newspaper in a series of reports exposed how President Muhammadu Buhari re-approved the payment of the controversial millions of dollars in the Paris Club refund to some creditors after being manipulated by the Minister.
Emefiele had in a letter dated 29th March 2022 with reference No. GVD/GOV/CON/DGC/210/071 and addressed to Malami said the apex bank was willing to pay millions of dollars to the creditors.
Responding to Emefiele’s letter, Malami claimed ignorance of various court cases on the payment and asked the CBN to release the money. According to the chief law officer, Nigeria shouldn’t be seen dishonouring financial instruments issued in her full faith.
But the governors in the letter said Malami and Ahmed should not under any guise whatsoever stampede the FEC to take a decision which will not only be patently unconstitutional and illegal but also an affront to the highest court of the land.
The letter read, “The attention of the NGF has been drawn to yet another attempt by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Finance (HMF) to circumvent the law and the recent Judgment of the Supreme Court by surreptitiously securing the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to effect payment of the sum of $418Million to four contractors who allegedly executed contracts in respect of the Paris Club refunds to the states and Local Governments.
“It would be recalled that an earlier approval of Mr. President under the instrumentality of the AGF and HMF to pay the said sum to the contractors through the issuance of Promissory Notes had met stiff resistance by the 36 State Governors who approached the Court for redress through their Attorneys-General.
“The matter is currently pending on appeal at the Court of Appeal in Abuja for hearing. The Letter by the State Attorneys General is attached. Significantly, while that appeal is pending, one of the contractors, who is a beneficiary of the Promissory Notes in the sum of $USD 142,028,941.95, Riok Nigeria Limited and who had lost at the Court of Appeal, further appealed to the SC in SUIT NO: SC 337/2018 BETWEEN: RIOK NIGERIA LIMITED V INCORPORATED TRUSTEES OF NIGERIA GOVERNORS’ FORUM &7 ORS.
“The Supreme Court on 3rd June, 2022 also dismissed Riok’s appeal as lacking in merit. The SC had on the occasion made clear that neither the NGF nor ALGON have power to award contracts and charge same directly to the Federation Account as done in this case. The SC specifically held on page 43 that: The funds belonging to a state or Local Government must be kept in an account belonging to the State or Local Government as the case may be, and disbursed or expended by the state strictly in the manner and for the purposes prescribed in the Constitution and an Appropriation Law or as prescribed by the House of Assembly of the State and in the manner and for purposes prescribed in the Constitution, a Local Government Law or as prescribed by the Council of the Local Government.
“The dismissal of RIOK’S case by the SC also affected the payment of $1,219,440.45 and $215,195.36 to two private lawyers to RIOK, NWAFOR ORIZU and OLAITAN BELLO who are also beneficiaries of Promissory Notes by the DMO. Besides RIOK and the two lawyers, the States have also challenged either on appeal or other courts the claims by the other contractors including: DR. TED ISIGHOHI EDWARDS ($159,000,000), NED NWOKO ($68,658,192.83) and PANIC ALERT SECURITY SYSTEMS LTD ($47,831,920).
“These cases are pending and no steps ought to be taken to enforce the Judgment and alter the status quo until the matters are fully determined. A Caveat issued to restrain all parties concerned and the public from dealing or honoring Promissory Notes issued had earlier been published.
“The purport and essence of the definitive pronouncement by the SC is that none of the contractors recommended for payment of the sum of $418 Million by the AGF and HMF can be so paid because the contracts and payments relied upon were not processed as prescribed by the Constitution and the law. The funds certainly cannot be accessed through the Federation Account as vigorously pursued by the AGF and HMF. Those contracts as they stand are unconstitutional and unlawful and cannot vest any legal right on any of the contractors. It is immaterial that part of the contract sums has been paid. Those payments did not validate the unlawful nature of the contracts. The SC has spoken. It is final and must be obeyed. The excerpt of the decision of the SC is attached for ease of reference.
“The NGF had in fact consistently posited that neither the States nor ALGON can appropriate/deduct monies directly from the Federation Account which funds are meant to be paid into the States/Local Government Joint Account for which the Houses of Assembly of the states are yet to appropriate and arising from Judgments to which the states that are custodians of the joint account were not a party. This position has been reinforced by the recent SC court decision in the RIOK’s Case.
“The NGF therefore urges that the AGF and the HMF should not under any guise whatsoever stampede the FEC to take a decision which will not only be patently unconstitutional and illegal but also an affront to the highest court of the land. The rule of law is not only supreme; it is a cardinal principle canvassed by the present administration and should in this particular occasion be strictly obeyed.
“In the face of the crushing economic realities and security challenges facing the nation and competing allocation of scarce resources, the payment of contractors of the humongous sum of $418 Million from pubic treasury is not and should not be the priority of FEC. FEC may also wish to note that the undue haste in which the payment of the contractors in the Paris Club refund has been pursued and processed by the AGF and HMF has already created the impression in the discerning minds of the public that it would appear that the interest of contractors takes precedence over and above the welfare and interest of the general public whom the senior officials of government had sworn to defend and protect. The NGF therefore admonishes FEC to prevail on the AGF and HMF to toe the line of constitutionality and allow the due process of the law to prevail.”
SaharaReporters had in a series of reports exposed wide-ranging legitimacy issues, including non-execution of agreed contracts and backdoor deals raised against the indebtedness from various quarters. One of the beneficiaries is Dr Ted Iseghohi Edwards, who was indicted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Documents seen by SaharaReporters showed that Edwards did not represent the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) as claimed. A letter dated August 1, 2018, from a former EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, to the Ministry of Justice/Attorney General's Office, accused him of making an attempt to defraud the Nigerian government.
It said, “The suspects had filed applications in court to be joined as one of the judgement creditors during the garnishee proceedings and the applications were refused by the Federal High Court. The judge in a ruling delivered on the 27th of June 2016 frowned on Dr Ted Edward for brandishing a judgment purportedly delivered by the Federal Capital Territory on 30th October, 2015 and in fact, took a swipe at it.
“By the motion ex parte filed on the 30th of March, 2015, the judgement creditors applied for a Garnishee Order Nisi which was granted on 1st April, 2015 and fixed the return date for 16th April for the Garnishee to show cause why the Order Nisi should not be made absolute.
“The Honorable Judge in his ruling stated unequivocally that 'let me state right away that the substantive matter was commenced by me until I entered judgement on the 3rd of December, 2013. I have searched my records up to the date I entered judgement. I could not find the name of Dr Ted Iseghohi Edwards as representing the judgement creditors even for one day nor did I find any process filed by his law firm. How then was that judgement prosecuted?'
“Another point to highlight is the fact that according to the purported letter of engagement being bandied by Dr Ted Edwards, he was engaged on September 15, 2011, long before the matter was filed in court quoting the exact judgment sum.
“What this throws up is the fact that the said letter of engagement was done after 3rd December 2013 and backdated to make it look as if the suspect had been engaged before the case started. There is no evidence to prove that the suspect did any work in relation to the recovery process.
“A careful look at the memorandum of settlement between Dr Ted Iseghohi Edwards and Hon. Odunayo Ategbero betrays the conspiracy and an attempt to defraud the Federal Government by the suspects.
“Pending Actions; Invitation and/or Arrest of the suspect, Dr Ted Iseghohi Edwards with a view of confronting him with all the issues raised in the evaluation above. Tracing and filing interim forfeiture order on any property or asset acquired with proceeds of fraud by Dr. Ted Iseghahi Edwards.”
SaharaReporters gathered that despite the report, Malami persuaded Buhari to approve $159 million as legal fees to Edward.
They also directed the DMO and the Ministry of Finance to release the promissory notes to Edwards and others so that they could take their shares, a source had said.
“Edwards was the Secretary-General of ALGON when the Paris Club refund case FHC/ABJ/CS/130/2013 was done by Joe Agi (SAN) and his colleagues before Justice Ademola. It is clear that he was not the lawyer to ALGON and this much ALGON has said in writing to Malami and the Chief of Staff, Gambari,” the source had told SaharaReporters.
“The EFCC in its report to Malami and (Ibrahim) Gambari also established that Ted Edwards did not represent ALGON and that Ted Edwards in his own handwriting admitted that Joe Agi was the lead counsel for ALGON. He went to one Judge, Baba Yusuf and procured a judgement that he was the lawyer to ALGON in the Paris Club refund case.
“Yet, Malami who knows this is recommending that Ted Edwards be paid $159,000,000 as fees from ALGON instead of the actual lawyer. Will this not amount to double payment whenever Mr Joe Agi demands to be paid? From my investigation, Mr Joe Agi, ALGON and the Nigerian Governors’ Forum have all gone back to court to challenge the payment of the $418 million including that of Edwards through promissory notes.
“Should Malami not take a second look at the suit and see if really there is any fraud as being widely alleged? Instead, he and the Chief of Staff tricked the President and subsequently directed the Debt Management Office and the Finance Office to release the promissory notes to Edwards and others so that they can take their shares.
“The total sum of $418 million promissory note suggested by Malami to be paid is just a tip of the iceberg of what is coming unless he is stopped. Nigeria will become bankrupt before President Buhari leaves office. The anti-corruption war of Buhari has been effectively clipped by Malami and Gambari using their powerful offices to trick the President who really trusted them.
“All (that is) needed to be done is to allow independent people to go through the whole cases concocted on the advice of Malami and the truth will be seen and Nigeria saved of all these massive stealing.
“Why is Malami not challenging any of these court judgements? If I may ask; in most of all these claims, the EFCC had investigated, taken statements and established that none of the contracts was executed. The report was submitted to Malami and former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun by the Magu-led EFCC (which) suggested the arrest and interrogation of Ted Edwards and one Prince Nicolas Ukachukwu but he and Gambari suppressed the report.
“The same man suggested to be arrested is who Malami said should be given $159,000,000. ALGON had written several letters to him and (Kayode) Fayemi, who is the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum that all the jobs executed by Edwards and others were fake, not executed. Yet Malami in the face of this clear case of fraud tricked the President in a memo and said judgement was given against them.
“He also negotiated the debt to 50 percent and convinced the President to pay to avoid more damages. It’s high time President Buhari saved his anti-corruption war by causing a thorough investigation of his appointees involved in this massive fraud.”
Others who stand to benefit if the money is paid include Ned Nwoko, who is laying claim to $142,028,941 via a consent judgment he obtained from the Federal High Court in Abuja in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017. Three beneficiaries laying claim to $143,463,577.76 via a judgment of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/2129/2014 are: Riok Nigeria Ltd, Orji Nwafor Orizu, and Olaitan Bello.
From the total money, Riok Nigeria Limited has a share of $142,028,941.95 (about 54 billion), Mr Nwafor is entitled to $1,219,440.45 and Mr Bello has a share of $215,159.36. A firm, Panic Alert Security System Limited, owned by George Uboh, is also laying claim to $47,831,920 based on another “consent judgment” it obtained in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/123/2018, which was filed in 2018.