Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami (SAN), has maintained that despite stiff opposition from governors, the federal government will continue to effect payment of $418 million to four contractors who executed contracts in respect of the Paris Club Refunds.
He disclosed this yesterday during the weekly ministerial briefing organised by the presidential communication team at the presidential villa.
Governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) had alleged fresh attempt by the AGF and the minister of Finance to circumvent the law and the recent judgment of the Supreme Court by surreptitiously securing the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to effect payment of the sum of $418Million to contractors.
The governors recalled that they had earlier resisted an earlier approval of President Muhammadu Buhari under the instrumentality of the AGF and Finance minister to pay the said sum to the contractors through the issuance of promissory notes by approaching the court for redress through their state attorneys-general.
According to the chairman of the NGF and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, the matter is currently pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja for hearing.
But Malami said yesterday that the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to his office conceding and agreeing that the payment should be made.
He explained that the government subjected the claims by the governors and the payment to the same scrutiny as the P&ID case.
Malami stated that he directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Department Of State Service (DSS) to look into the claims and report back to the office of the AGF.
He said these agencies reported and concluded that there was no problem associated with it.
He said, “We have a report that despite a presidential directive to suspend the deduction from the Paris Club Refund, there is evidence that directive has not been fully complied with. Because some deductions have been made. And some contractors have been paid. What do you have to say about it?
“On the issue of the Paris Club that is raised you mentioned that there exists a presidential directive that payments should not be made and then in breach of that directive payments were perhaps made arising from the conspiracy between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
“I think you need to be informed first as to the antecedents, prevailing circumstances, and how the liability arose but one thing I’m happy to state, which I want to reiterate having stated the same earlier, is the fact that the Office of the Attorney General and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has not incurred any major judgment debt for seven years it has been on.
On the antecedents of the Paris Club, he said the liability or judgment debts related to the funds were a liability created by the governors’ forum in their own right.
He further explained: “How do I mean? The governor’s forum, consisting of all the governors, sat down and commonly agreed on the engagement of consultants to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery of the Paris Club. So, it was the governor’s forum under the federal government in the first place that engaged the consultant.
“Two, when eventually successes were recorded associated with the refund, associated with Paris Club, the governors collectively and individually presented a request to the federal government for the fund.
“And among the components of the claim presented for the consideration of the federal government was a component related to the payment of these consultants that are now constituting the subject of contention.
“So, the implication of that is that the governors in their own right recognized the consultant, recognized their claim, and presented a such claim to the federal government.
“Three, when the claims were eventually processed and paid to the governor’s forum. They indeed on their own, without the intervention of the federal government took steps to make part payments to the consultants, acknowledging their liability over the same.
“And then four, when eventually they made such payments at a point they decided to stop the payment. The consultants instituted an action in court against the governor’s forum. And what happened in court? They submitted a consent judgment.
“They asked and urged the Court to allow them to settle out of court. The court granted them an opportunity to settle. They commit terms of settlement in writing, they sign the terms of the settlement, agreeing and conceding that such payments be made to the consultant.
“And then five, thereafter, the federal government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was requested to comply with the judgment and effect payment. The President passed all the requests of the governess to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration.
“I suggested to the President on the face value of the judgment and the undertones associated with the consultancy services. It was my opinion, the same treatment we meted to P&ID, that let us subject this claim, the consent judgment to an investigation by the agencies of the government. Mr. President approved, I directed the EFCC and DSS to look into these claims and report back to the office of the Attorney General.
“And these agencies reported and concluded that there is no problem undertone associated with it. The government may continue to sanction the payment dependent. Now, that was the background.
“Even at that, we took further steps after receiving these reports from the EFCC among others, to demand indemnity from the governors. You, as a forum, incurred this liability, as a forum you submitted to consent judgment.”
He further explained that these claims have been subjected to investigation and there is a report to that effect.
“But even at that, we need independent indemnity from you, establishing that it is with your consent and understanding that these payments should be made, in writing,” he added.
Malami restated that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has not incurred judgement debts since the inception of the administration.
The minister noted that the Ministry, through the CCG unit, is coordinating the next phase of terrorism-related trials in collaboration with the federal high court, the Legal Aid Council, and the Defense Headquarters.
He also disclosed that the government has recovered over N3.2bn (£6,324,627.66) of stolen monies from various jurisdictions globally from March 2021 to May 2022.
The AGF, who noted that the Justice Ministry has supported the Federal Government in various infrastructure funding agreements, lamented that the country currently grapples with a N329 billion funding gap.
He explained that an inter-ministerial committee on the audit and recovery of years on stamp duty has so far recovered N596,055,479.47.
“This exercise also provided job opportunities for over 1000 professionals including lawyers, accountants, auditors, and financial consultants. The ongoing exercise has so far led to the recovery of the sum of N596,055,569.47”, he said.
Malami also explained that the Ministry of Justice has successfully processed over 350 Mutual Legal Assistance and 50 extradition requests including extradition proceedings against suspended DCP Abba Kyari from the United States of America.
He said: “My office filed extradition proceedings against the suspended DCP Abba Kyari in line with an MLA request from the USA.”
He also said the government has recovered over N3.2 billion (£6,324,627.66) of stolen money from various jurisdictions globally from March 2021 to May 2022.