By Chinelo Obogo
President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that the plans to begin the deduction of $418 million Paris Club refund owed four contractors from the federation account be suspended.
In an exclusive report from Premium Times, Buhari was reported to have directed the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, to halt the plan at the FEC meeting of August 3, where the matter was discussed.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had in a letter to the federal government, through the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha and signed by the Chairman of the NGF and outgoing governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, described the new move as an “attempt by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, 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 FEC to effect payment of the sum of $418 million to four contractors who allegedly executed contracts in respect of the Paris Club refunds to the states and local governments.”
Before Wednesday’s meeting, the governors had written to all ministers, seeking their intervention to stop the planned deduction being pushed by the ministers of justice and finance. However, at the meeting, sources told the paper that after Ahmed and Malami made their presentations, they were countered by the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola; the Minister of State for Labour, Festus Keyamo and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha.
The FEC members who spoke against the deduction were said to have told the meeting that it would be sub-judicial for any payment to be made to the contractors while cases are pending in courts. They also reportedly argued that it was insensitive of Mrs Ahmed and Mr Malami to have tabled a proposal for the payment of controversial debts to contractors at a time the government is struggling to pay workers and fulfil its obligations to citizens.
In their letter to Buhari last week, the governors argued that the essence of the definitive pronouncement by the Supreme Court is that none of the contractors recommended for payment of the sum of $418 Million by the AGF and finance minister can be so paid because the contracts and payments relied upon were not processed as prescribed by the constitution and the law.