The row over the payment of $419 milion to Paris Club Loan Refund consultants is yet to abate, following the insistence of governors to resolve the crisis by litigation.
It was gathered that the governors have foreclosed political solution to the matter because the dispute was already at the Court of Appeal.
According to findings by our correspondent, the governors met Monday evening in Abuja and resolved to pursue the case for the sake of prosperity.
They also said the deduction of the $419m cash from the Federation Account monthly may put some states in distress.
The governors are said to be in possession of a report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to strengthen their case in court.
A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said the governors felt the judgments relied upon by some consultants to demand the huge fee are not sustainable in the appellate court.
The source said: “There is nothing like political solution to the case on payment of $419million to some consultants on Paris Club debt refund. We are already in court, there is no basis for any political negotiation.
“ There is a subsisting court order that there should be no deduction from the allocations of states and local governments pending determination of the case. So, the threat of a garnishee order does not hold water. There are many gaps in this $419million case which will soon be exposed to Nigerians.
“ It is a straightforward case. It is about the overall interest of Nigeria and we must not allow our nation to be shortchanged. It is not a personal issue, it is about our future as a nation.
“At our meeting, we agreed that we should pursue the case to its logical conclusion. We don’t mind going to the Supreme Court on this matter.
The source added:”We have a report written by EFCC which faulted demand for payments by the consultants.”
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Since April 19, 2021, there had been controversy over the payment of the $419million.
The amount involved had varied from $318million to $419million.
The Nigeria Governors Forum(NGF) and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) had protested to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, against deductions from the states statutory allocations from the Federation Account.
The NGF’s counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), in the April 19, 2021 letter to the Minister, said: “The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has engaged our services to challenge the decisions of the Court relating to or connected with payments of Legal and Consultancy fees arising from London Club Debt, Buy Back and London Club Debt Exit Payment, which is the fulcrum of the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/130/13 — LINAS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ORS.V. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA & ORS.
“As you already know, the claim of Or. Ted Iseghoni Edwards arose from legal services he allegedly rendered to the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
“Consequently, we have prepared all the court processes challenging the judgments of courts and seeking for stay of execution and/or injunction pending appeal.
“We have been unable to file due to the ongoing strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), which has occasioned a complete shut-down of our Courts. Find attached herewith copies of the processes already prepared and awaiting the re-opening of the Courts for filing.
“Our attention has been drawn to a letter from the firm of Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN & Co dated 8” April, 2021, urging you to issue promissory notes to Dr. Ted Iseghoni Edwards.
“We respectfully urge you not to accede to the request because these promissory notes are to be deducted from the accounts of the States for the next ten (10) years. It is therefore expedient to await the outcome of legal steps being taken by the states as represented by the NGF.
“Section 162(5) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) mandates any amount standing to the credit of local governments to be paid directly to the states for the benefit of their local government councils. The states therefore have a responsibility to ensure that funds standing to the credit of the local government councils are protected as custodians of such funds.
“We need to inform you of your sacred duty of staying action on this matter in view of the injunctive reliefs sought in the processes to be filed in Court on these matters.
“While extending the assurances of our highest regard, we hope that you will exercise restraint by resisting any urge to issue promissory notes to anyone (including Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards, Mr. Ned Munir Nwoko, Panic Alert Security Systems, Dr. George Uboh, Riok Nigeria Ltd, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu & Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo) pending the determination of these actions by the Court.”
In an April 8th 2021 letter to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, (SAN), who is the counsel to Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards, demanded issuance of the promissory notes to his client.
The letter reads in part: “We are counsels to Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards (Judgment Creditor) herein referred to as our client.
“Our client got a Garnishee Order absolute attaching the funds belonging to Local Governments in the custody of the Central Bank of Nigeria in satisfaction of a Judgment debt as per Judgments of both the FCT High Court and the Federal High Court of Nigeria which entered Judgment in favour of our client for the sum of $318,000,000.00.
“At the instance of the Federal Government, this Judgment was compromised to the effect that the Federal Government agree to pay less than the full Judgment debt. Mr. President has since December 2020 approved the payment of this sum through issuance to our client a Promissory Note because the Country is in financial straits.
“Since the approval of Mr. President, you, as the Minister responsible for carrying out the Presidential approval, have refused to carry out your official reasonability as a Public Officer hiding under the cloak of awaiting for consent and responses of the judgment debtors.
“We hereby demand on behalf of our client your immediate compliance with the Presidential approval and effect the satisfaction of our compromised Judgment debt by issuing our client with Promissory Notes as proved.
“Take notice that in the light of the Attorney-General’s press conference on Tuesday 6th day of April 2021 debunking all allegation in the social media concerning the judgment debt, we shall after seven (7) days of the date of the receipt of this letter by your ministry you failed, refuse or neglect to comply with the presidential directive, our client will have no choice than to seek remedy in the Court claiming his entire judgment debt and 10% interest per month until
the liquidation thereof. “
A copy of the letter to the minister was sent to the Director-General, Debt Management Office(DMO) on April 8th, 2021.
The letter to the DMO reads “ We act for Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards. Find enclosed a letter we wrote on behalf of our client to the Hon. Minister of Finance and copied to the Hon. Attorney General of Federation.”
In a March 29th letter to the President, ALGON said it was opposed to the payment of the N152.6billion to Ted Iseghohi Edwards.
It also said it did not enter into any consultancy or legal engagement with Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards.
It said: “There is no evidence anywhere the Local Governments engaged Ted Edwards to recover Paris Club Refunds on their behalf. No engagement or instruction letter, power of attorney or letter of authority was issued by a single local government to him.
”We must make it abundantly clear that any payment to Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning from the local governments’ allocations without the consent or authority of any local government councils will be an illegality and a clear violation of the principle of tier autonomy over government funds enshrined in the constitution and recognised by the Supreme Court.
“It could also open a floodgate of claims by local governments across the country against the Federal Ministry of Finance and any other Ministry or Agency that facilitates such illegal and fraudulent payment.