By Sunday Ani
LINAS International Limited and former Member of the House of Representatives, Ned Nwoko, have disclosed how they were threatened in their bid to untangle the excess charges and over deductions in Paris Club advances for which the Federal Government had refunded $13 billion to states and local government areas.
An Interim Management Committee (IMC), of the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON), recently distanced the association from the current plan by the Federal Government to pay Linas and Nwoko their overdue consultancy fees, but ALGON’s national president, Mr. Kolade Alabi and others who confirmed Nwoko’s engagement, dismissed the IMC as nonexistent.
J.K Gazadma, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and other lawyers to Linas and Nwoko, in a statement, said: “The British Government at some point was reluctant to disclose repayment details, claiming that such disclosures would jeopardize relations with Nigerian Government. The company persisted and through the High Court in London got the desired disclosure orders and the much-needed documents to establish the excess charges and over deductions.
“This windfall was facilitated by the consultancy work of Linas International Limited which initiated the forensic audit and accounting review process that discovered over deductions and excess charges debited to the account of these tiers of government over time and accelerated with the exit of Nigeria from the London and Paris Club of lenders during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime.
“The consultancy was on a contingency basis where the payment to Linas International Limited is dependent on the success and actual funds recovered no matter what costs were incurred. The consultancy presented huge risks as no funds were committed by the beneficiaries – states and local governments.
“No state or local government funded the huge costs involved. Some states and local governments were in fact sceptical about the chances of success. Linas International Limited tenaciously and silently commenced and pursued these finance and accounting reviews since 2009. Its discovery led to the stoppage of the excess charges being debited to the accounts of states and local governments from the Federation Account.
“Linas followed the money trail to several European banking centres in the United Kingdom, France and Geneva to aggregate the over deductions to the accounts of the local governments in the Federation Account. To achieve the above feats, Linas engaged diverse professionals in these foreign jurisdictions, including Inquiry Agents, Accounting and legal professionals.
“Linas and Nwoko were threatened in the course of the effort to unravel the excess charges and over deductions. The British Government at some point was reluctant to disclose repayment details, claiming that such disclosures would jeopardize her relations with Nigerian Government.
“The company persisted and through the High Court in London got the desired disclosure orders and the much-needed documents to establish the excess charges and over deductions. In the course of the court cases, four former governors in Nigeria lent their support with their presence in some of the court proceedings,” they said.
The lawyers frowned at the misrepresentations and false narratives in the print and social media over the matter, saying: “These misleading impressions, in the past, led to complaints to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC. The EFCC invited Linas and Nwoko and thoroughly investigated the complaints, and after sifting through piles of documents, issued a report dated August 1, 2018, affirming that Linas International Limited and Ned Nwoko executed the consultancy, leading to the refunds and are entitled to be paid consultancy fees.”
“A review investigation by the EFCC confirmed the earlier report. In fact, there are three separate EFCC reports – August 1, 2018, April 30, 2019, and June 15, 2020, all independent and confirming that Nwoko and Linas are the ones that were duly engaged by states and local governments.
“The Department of State Services (DSS), based on intelligence reports, has also investigated the subject matter and turned in a report in similar terms.
“Linas is not engaged by ALGON, we are engaged directly by all the local governments directly, with irrevocable powers of attorney which are still subsisting. Above all, the local governments have received funds of $3.2 billion because of our efforts. We deserve our fees and we will be paid in full,” they said.