The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has responded to the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami over the controversy concerning the payment of consultancy fees amounting to $418 million from the Paris Club refund.
Speaking on a television programme yesterday, the spokesperson of the NGF, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo questioned why the AGF was so concerned about private claims to State funds.
Recall that in 2021, the governors had obtained an order from a Federal High Court, in Abuja, restraining the Federal Government from deducting the money from States’ accounts for the purpose of paying the disputed debt. On Thursday, Malami claimed the Governors had no basis for disputing the payments. According to him, the consultants were hired by the Governors and that they had taken steps to pay before backtracking and taking the matter to court.
In his response, Bello-Barkindo said the AGF should be more concerned about how the government can fund university education and not funnel money into private pockets. “There is no component that compels the Governors’ Forum to pay consultants anything; and there is no agreement between the consultants collectively and governors collectively”, he stated. According to him, “The Paris Fund money has been exhausted, and the consultants and the Attorney-General are expecting the money to be deducted from States’ accounts from sources over 52 or 58 months; that is unheard of.
“And what the NGF is saying is that there is no money to be paid and the monies that have been paid are gross errors. Where they are asking for the monies to be gotten from is the biggest sacrilege. This money belongs to the States, the masses of this country; and because you’re powerful, you want money to be taken and given to you. That is why they are using the Attorney -General of the Federation to get the money at the source because the state does not have any reason (to pay).
“What the Attorney-General is claiming, that there is a consent judgement, is what the NGF is saying did not exist. What the NGF is asking for is evidence of work done. Some of them said they have constructed primary health-care centres across the country, and others said they have provided boreholes; these are physical things that you can show. This matter is in court. The court is the only authority that can determine clearly whether there is a reason for payment or not”.
“Why are highly placed lawyers afraid of their own platform?” he further queried.