By Adetutu Folasade-Koyi
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) affirmed, yesterday, there is no illegality in the disbursement of the N522 billion Paris Club loan refund it got from the Presidency last year, in a direct response to an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The refund was a result of over-deductions from the statutory allocations of the states for debt-servicing by past governments.
The forum was reacting to reports that the EFCC had indicted Senate President, Bukola Saraki, his aides, and a consultant the NGF hired, Robert Mbonu,for N3. 5 billion money laundering.
They were alleged to have diverted part of the Paris Club refund, after same hit the NGF account.
But, in a statement issued yesterday, NGF spokesman, Abdulrazaque Barkindo, said there was no illegality in the transaction.
He said Mbonu’s Melrose General Services Limited was hired as a consultant and that it was paid an amount commensurate to its services and added that it was not the business of the NGF to investigate how money paid to its service providers was spent.
“Our attention has been drawn to publications in the media which are believed to have emanated from the EFCC, about a purported report the anti-graft agency submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari, on March 10, 2016.
“The report is said to have indicted Saraki and imputed illegal dealings in the disbursement of the Paris Club refund payment to states of the federation as handled by the NGF.
“While the NGF will not want to repeatedly join issues with the EFCC on the disbursement of the first tranche of the Paris Club refund, particularly after its officials have been interrogated by the anti-corruption agency and we provided all necessary and required details and documents regarding disbursement to states, including harmonising the number of consultants and payment made to them, we are constrained to once again state the following for the benefit of members of the public:
“It is true that Melrose General Services Limited was one of the consultants that was duly engaged and documented to facilitate the disbursement of the Paris Club Refund. The consultant was also paid an amount commensurate to the services it provided, among other numerous consultants that were involved in the process.
“It is not in the NGF’s purview to determine how Melrose or other consultants disburse or utilise the consultancy fee paid to them. The NGF should therefore not be dragged into how its suppliers, lawyers, contractors and consultants spend their legitimate incomes and revenues.
“It may interest the public to know that the NGF is still being inundated with claims from many other consultants from all over the country who had earlier been engaged and promised commission by the respective states.
“The NGF maintains its earlier position that it has done nothing illegal as far as the disbursement of the Paris Club Refund to states and the consultants are concerned. The Forum has all necessary approvals to act in the manner it did. Therefore, the misinformation in the media about the disbursement and insinuations being made concerning some governors that are being mentioned is outright mischief.”
Barkindo said approval for the release of the second tranche of the Paris Club refund by the president was indicative of his confidence in the NGF for the manner it handled the disbursement of the first tranche of the fund.
“The NGF would like to once again place it on record that it played an altruistic and patriotic role in ensuring that it aided, as directed, approved and authorised by the presidency, federal ministry of finance, office of the accountant general of the federation, debt management office (DMO) and all other necessary agencies of government, the disbursement of the funds to entities and individuals lawfully entitled to it. All approvals, authorisation, terms of engagements and disbursement were properly documented and are verifiable by anyone, including the general public,” he added.