By Chibuzo Ukaibe, Abuja
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has agreed to pay all the outstanding fees it is owing consultants over the payment of the Paris-London Club loan refunds to the states.
The resolve by the NGF over the pending fees was reached in Abuja at a meeting of the legal committee of the forum held at Plateau Government Lodge.
At the meeting chaired by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, it was learnt that the consultants to be paid include all those that were engaged by previous administrations across states.
Controversy had trailed the payment for the first tranche of loan refunds from the Paris-London club.
A former member the House of Representatives, Hon Ned Nwoko, who was one of the consultants in the payment of the Paris Club loan refund to the states sued the 36 state governors in his bid to compel them to pay him $176m or the naira equivalent of N53.6bn (at official N305/dollar) as his consultancy fee for the recovery of N522.74billion foreign loans deductions.
He maintained that it was agreed in his engagement letter to recover the accruals from the funds wrongly deducted by the Paris Club and London Club between 1995 and 2005.
Mauritz Walton (Nig) Ltd, one of the consultant progenitors of the Paris Club Refund, also had issues with the governors on the payment of the consultant fees.
A review team was set up to include Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe) and Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi).
The team were mandated to review and provide solution to the demands by consultants on the refunds to states.
A source close to the governors, however, said that all members of the Legal Committee attended the meeting except Governor Seriake Dickson, who had earlier dissociated himself from the hiring of consultants for the first tranche of the Paris Club refunds by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).
The source said, “With the decision of the Legal Committee of the NGF to push for the payment of all outstanding fees to all state consultants, the on-going legal battle between the governments on one hand and the consultants that pursued the repayment of the excess deductions made on Nigeria’s repayment of foreign loans, will be ended and the prospect of fresh ones averted.
He further disclosed that “another meeting of the NGF Legal Committee has been scheduled to hold on Tuesday, with the issue of payment from the Paris-London Club Refund to local government areas expected to top the agenda”.
The governors had preferred payment to consultants engaged more recently at the expense of those who pursued the loan refund, even with previous administrations.
Engaged as far back as 2014 by Akwa Ibom, Delta, Abia, Bauchi and Cross River States, Mauritz Walton (Nig) Ltd had pressed for the loan refunds to the states during the tenure of a former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.
Some of the efforts made by the firm at reconciling debt records which the Buhari administration inherited were detailed in a letter to the federal government signed by Dr. Maurice Ibe (Managing Consultant) and Alh. Sani Anani (Associate Consultant) for the firm.
The letter reads: “The above named company was appointed as consultants by some state governments to carry out reconciliation and recovery of all over deductions on foreign loans (1995 to 2006).
“Subsequently, the loan records were received and reconciled for all the states under our client list (1982 to 2006). It was discovered that the total deductions from the states’ statutory revenue from June 1995 to March 2006 (period of “first line charge policy”) were completely omitted in the past reconciliation exercises.
“It is important to kindly inform that Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Debt Management Office (DMO) and FAAC Sub-Committee did not include this period.
“Therefore, based on our findings, we submitted a demand notice to the then Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance as established over deduction of our clients (states).
“The purpose of this letter is to seek your kind intervention as the Chairman of Debt Management Office (DMO) to resolve these issues once and for all”.
It was gathered that another source of controversy with regards to the issue of consultants’ fee had to do with the discrepancies in the percentages agreed between states and the consultants.