From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
A consortium of consulting firms, Mauritz Walton Nigeria Limited and Bizplus Consulting Services Ltd, has approached a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, for an order requiring the Enugu State Government to pay them the sum of N10.2 billion, as debt owed to them in regard to the Paris Club refund.
The amount, according to the consortium, forms 20 per cent of the N44. 4 billion the firms helped Enugu to recover from the federal government.
According to the claimants, the debt arose as a result of the defendants’ failure to pay them the agreed 20 per cent of the of N44.4 billion consultancy fees for its role in the federal government’s refund of excess deductions in Paris Club loans.
Between 2002 and 2007, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through its Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC), in concert with the 36 states of the Federation, reconciled its external loans/debts, and in the process it was discovered that excess deductions under the first line charge were made to service foreign loans owed by the federal government and the states.
Owing to the discrepancies, the Enugu State Government, along with other states, engaged the services of the firms, via a letter dated June 9, 2014, to help reconcile and recover the sums of money over-deducted or charged for foreign loan facilities by the Enugu State Government from 1992 to 2008.
Claimants in the suit are Bizplus Consulting Services Ltd and Maurice Walton Nig Ltd, with the Enugu State Government and the Attorney General of Enugu State as first and second defendants, respectively.
In the 31-paragraph witness statement on oath, deposed to by Dr Maurice Ibe, the claimants said that the Enugu State Government agreed to pay them ’20 per cent of all monies recovered/paid from/by the Federal Government of Nigeria upon reconciliation and agreement on the exact excess debit.’
Based on the agreement, the claimants said they went ahead to intensify engagement with the Ministry/Minister of Finance and the Debt Management Office (DMO), wherein they were able to prove that the Enugu State Government between ‘June 1995 and March 2002 suffered excess deductions/debits regarding its external loans/debits repayment in the total sum of $142,034,156, which sum they therefore demanded to be refunded to the first defendants.’
According to the claimants, their irrefutable case made to the Ministry of Finance and the Debt Management Office, as well as other relevant federal government authorities for the refund of the excess deductions, led to the payment of the sum of N44.4 billion to Enugu State Government.
‘Not withstanding its receipt and enjoyment of the refund of excess debit on its foreign loan account by the claimants’ expert intervention in the circumstances detailed in the preceding paragraphs, the first defendant has refused/neglected/failed to pay the claimants the agreed 20 per cent thereof, in full or in part, despite several requests and seemingly fruitful meetings between the Enugu State Government and myself over a period of about 18 months prior to the commencement of this suit,’ the deponent stated.
Dr Ibe added that the refusal by the Enugu Government to pay the consultancy fee as well as their disregard to several letters written by their lawyer demanding payment, led the claimants to institute the legal action.
The claimants prayed the court to order the defendants to pay them the sum of N10.2 billion, being debt owed by the Enugu Government as consultancy fee for the recovery of the excess debit on the state’s foreign/external loan.
Claimants also prayed for the payment of interest at the rate of 20 per cent per annum from November 1, 2018, until judgement and thereafter at the rate of 10 per cent until full and final payment. They also demanded the sum of N400 million as cost for instituting the suit.
The suit, dated March 1, 2021, and filed by Collins Akinade, from Chief Wole Olanipekun law firm, is being stalled by the ongoing strike action by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) over states’ refusal to allow for the financial autonomy of state judiciaries.