By Romanus Okoye
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has warned all chief executives of banks and their compliance officers not to give value to any promissory notes issued by the Debt Management Office (DMO) for allegedly paying Paris Club consultants fees totalling USD$418 million.
The governors also called on the public to be at alert over what they alleged to be “hasty attempt to circumvent the rule of law and dissipate hard earned public funds meant for development purposes to private persons on matters which are presently being litigated upon.
“Let no grant be sealed in the funds of the 36 states of the Federation and the 774 local government areas in the sums mentioned in this caveat without notice to the caveator (NGF) as the matter of the payments is subjudice.”
Counsel to the NGF, PH Ogbole, SAN, in a letter dated September 3, noted: “The attention of the NGF had been drawn to an online publication in Premium Times dated August 31, 2012 by one Ade Adesomoju and captioned “Exclusive: Buhari ignores governors’ call for audit, approves payment of $418million suspicious debts.
“The information in this report indicates that some consultants/contractors allege that they were retained by some states and had done some work for the states and local governments in Nigeria pertaining to the Paris Club refund by the Federal Government of Nigeria. The Minister of Finance is said to have directed the Director General, Debt Management Office (DMO) to issue Promissory Notes in favour of the consultants. The purported amounts claimed by the various consultants are as follows: Ned Nwoke-USD142,028,941; Ted Iseghoghi Edwards -USD159,000,000;Riok Nigeria Ltd, Orji Nwafor Orizu and Olaitan Bello – USD142,028,941.95; Panic Alert Security System Ltd and George Uboh – USD47,831,920.
“These consultants rely on judgments of the Federal High Court which are presently being challenged by the NGF in several actions in various courts vide suits No: (1) FHC/ABJ/CS/123/2018 between Panic Alert Security Systems Ltd & anor and The Trustees of the Nigeria Governors Forums & 3ors (2) FHC/ABJ/CS/453/2021 between The Trustees of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and Panic Alert Security Systems Ltd & 5 or (3) M/3542/2021 between Riok Nigeria Ltd & 3ors and The Trustees of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum
“It is interesting to note that some of the consultants have already joined issues with the NGF and the matters have been set down for hearing on September 28 and 29, 2021. The Honourable Minister of Finance, the DG, DMO and the AGF had since been duly served and notified of the pendency of these actions in court in different letters written by counsel to the NGF.
“It is therefore strange and indeed alarming that having been served and made aware of the pendency of the various court cases; the Honourable Minister of Finance would readily but in complete disregard of the law direct that Promissory Notes be issued in favour of the consultants.
“It must be noted that custodians and managers of public funds are public trustees and must at all times act in the public interest. In this case, the interest of all the states and local governments of the Federation are involved and ought to be protected by the Hon. Minister of Finance.
“The issuance of Promissory Notes of a humongous sum of over USD$418million to private persons for alleged consultancy work demands not only caution but strict due diligence, particularly when the judgments which gave rise to the payments sought to be enforced are the subject of pending litigation. Matters that are subjudice must not be acted upon in a manner that will foist a situation of complete helplessness on the courts and render their decisions nugatory.
“This caveat is therefore issued as a further notice to the Honourable Minister of Finance and the Director General, Debt Management Office to act in the interest of the public and refrain from foisting on the nation another case of P&ID in which but due diligence, the nation would have been fleeced of billions of dollars. The nation is already going through economic adversity and every dollar is needed to be channelled to people-oriented projects. Public duty and probity demand that public trustees must, at all times, act in the interest of the people they serve in order to protect their commonwealth. Accordingly, justice must be allowed to run its full course.”