INTERNATIONAL PRESS CONFERENCE
HON., PRINCE, DR. NED MUNIR NWOKO
CONSULTANT TO STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ON THE REFUNDS ON EXCESS-CHARGES AND OVER DEDUCTIONS ON FOREIGN LOANS ESPECIALLY ON PARIS/LONDON CLUB DEBT EXIT
Saturday, August 20, 2022
Good afternoon Gentlemen of the press.
I am compelled to embark on this public engagement to debunk the litany of lies, spin and false narratives that have been dished out to abuse the minds of the undiscerning public by the Chairman of Nigeria Governor Forum (NGF), Governor Kayode Fayemi against the payment of consultancy fees legitimately earned and owed my firm for services rendered and which the states and local governments have fully been refunded.
The outstanding fees owed my firm with regards to last work done for the states is approximately $68mUSD and not $418mUSD as maliciously sought to be conveyed by Fayemi and co. Our original claims calculated based on agreed terms was well in excess of $300mUSD. We offered huge discount on the entitlement to accept the $68mUSD.
I had my first degrees and masters in law from universities of Keele and Kings College University of London. I was first called to the English bar as a member of Lincolns Inn. I later requalified as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and wales. I was in full time practice in London until 1999 when I returned to Nigeria to represent my Constituency in the House of Representatives. Over the years of practicing in the UK, I developed expertise for development consultancy. I also act as lobbyist and facilitator for multinational Corporations, Governments, Parliaments and high net worth entities and individuals.
UNDERSTANDING THE PARIS CLUB REFUNDS
- Sometime in 2003 a World Bank official on a visit to Nigeria had claimed that Nigeria’s external debt was $35bUSD. Few days later the then Vice-President HE Atiku Abubakar countered the assertion and stated that Nigeria was owing $25bUSD and not $35bUSD as declared by the World Bank. At this period, I had a discussion with the then governor of Adamawa State who stated that they were overburdened by the weight of debt servicing obligations which were consuming substantial portion of their monthly allocation. This fact was echoed by then governors of Taraba, Niger, Abia and Ondo states. They were the first two states to engage me before others came on board. [SHOW DOCUMENT]
- Because of the complexities of the management of these loans and the near absence of proper documentation locally, I decided to focus first on the old Gongola State comprising of Adamawa and Taraba states and so engaged various experts, chartered accountants, forensic experts, Inquiry agents, lawyers. The initial efforts were focused on individual loans. With my team in the UK after extensive instructions from the team of commissioners and advisers from old Gongola State we were able to reconstruct the repayment scenarios and came to the inevitable conclusion that these states had over paid their foreign loans and in some cases there were non-existent foreign loans which they had paid.
- With our reports I had series of meetings with the then President Obasanjo and some of his economic advisers and presented a Report that showed that the foreign loans had been fully repaid especially with regards to Adamawa and Taraba States.
- President Obasanjo graciously obliged and set up a Committee comprising of two (2) members each from DMO, Accountant General Office, Revenue Mobilization and Fiscal Commission, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance, CBN and members of my team as well as two each from Taraba and Adamawa States. The Committee was chaired by DMO. The Committee Report confirmed my preliminary findings that the loans had been repaid and the states are overburdened with excess charges and over deductions.
- Thereafter, I advised as follows:
- that since the loans were taken under the same circumstances there was the possibility that the others will bear similar experiences.
- that Nigeria should exit from the foreign loans
- Government should stop further deductions from states monthly allocations and
- that they should start working out the extent of over deductions and commence refunds to the states. Most unsettling was the fact these payments were interest payments as principal debt had been repaid.
- This Is the genesis of what evolved into the refunds of excess-charges and over-deductions by the Federal Government to states for servicing loan obligations of state governments in Nigeria and to the current subject matter.
- It is to the eternal credit of former President Olusegun Obasanjo that the federal government halted the excess charges and over deductions as well as began refunding on identified over deductions and excess charges. Yar’ Adua did and President Jonathan as well.
- THE ABOVE FACTS CONTRSDICT THE LIES BEING FOSTERED BY THE NGF CURRENTLY UNDER GOVERNOR FAYEMI THAT THERE WERE NO REFUNDS BEFORE THIS PRESENT GOVERNMENT.
- From experience I discovered that after recovering payments the beneficiaries are reluctant to pay as agreed. I resorted to insisting on having my payments received from source as a first line charge.
- The Federal Government vigorously pursued the exit of Nigeria from the London and Paris Club Loan overhang. To exit the debt circle the Federal Government paid $12 billion in full and final settlement of the loans from the Excess Crude Savings Account which is funds accruable to the Federation Account to which the three (3) tiers of government are entitled viz: Federal Government, State Governments and Local Governments. In effect the Paris Club exit exercise (1) applied funds accruable to local governments to pay back foreign loans notwithstanding that no local government in Nigeria borrowed any money; (2) the exit exercise still encapsulated the outstanding excess charges and over-deductions from the state governments. The relevance of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) as the medium of interface with the Federal Government on behalf of the state governments on these issues was most manifest at this period.
- After the exit from the Paris Club states continued to receive their refunds. At some point the Federal Government (FGN) stopped so we began to contemplate going to court especially as it relates to using funds belonging to the three (3) tiers of government in paying for the exit. For the local governments it was a lot easier because they did not borrow any money. I instructed my lawyers who commenced an action which culminated in a court judgment in 2013 which gave rise to the refunds to local governments. I must add that I was engaged directly by local government although facilitated by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
- I also briefed lawyers on behalf of states after years of negotiations and the FGN not forthcoming with further refunds arising from the first line deductions between 1992 and 2002 as well as from the payment towards the exit of from the foreign loans in 2014. The NGF also requested that we extend the current matter to cover all the states. Some months later the state governments in Nigeria were asking the Federal Government for a bailout to be recouped later by the Federal Government by deductions from their allocations from the Federation Account.
- At the time the Chairman of the NGF was Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar, the then Governor of Zamfara State. My lawyers traveled to his village to meet him and propose the idea that instead of receiving bailouts which merely postpones the financial burdens on the state governments, it were better that the Federal Government refund the states as indicated in our reports. We gave him all necessary documents with which we were pursuing the court case. I attended several meetings with Governor Yari and some others over the matter.
- Eventually the Federal Government bought into the idea and the REFUNDS COMMENCED in 2016. The Federal Government refunded both state government as well as local governments based the efforts of Linas International Limited in Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/130/2013 and Ned Nwoko Solicitors Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/512/2014.
- IT NEEDS TO BE STATED THAT NO OTHER CONSULTANT OR COMPANAY AS AT 2013-2014 SUED THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ON BEHALF OF STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS.
- The Federal Government in the refunds paid money to accounts provided by the state governors for receipt of the refunds accruable to the states. The governors also provided accounts to receive the refunds accruable to local governments. The first tranche refunds to states and local governments the Federal Government wrongly paid the consultancy fees to the NGF. The consultancy fee paid to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is $86.5mUSD and N19.4 billion.
- While we were laboring to secure the refunds for the benefit of state and local governments, Governor Yari Abubakar developed a parallel scheme to misappropriate the consultancy fees. As recent as 2016 the NGF in a letter to the Accountant General of the Federation dated June 22, 2016 [SHOW DOC] claimed it appointed a consultant.
- During an altercation on one occasion during the several meetings with HE Governor Yari Abubakar I confronted him about the unconscionable quest to appropriate the $86.5mUSD and N19.4 billion. He claimed it was not for his personal use but was needed for the purposes of the elections in Bauchi, Ekiti and Ondo elections. Additionally, It should be recalled how some these monies found their way to some of the leadership of the National Assembly at the time. EFCC was able to clamp down and recover some of the money funneled away by the NGF. Most these frauds are still subject of Investigation as well as civil and criminal litigations including our action against the NGF and the Federal Government in Suit No, FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017
- It is important to state that the various state governments issued written instructions to the Federal Ministry of Finance authorizing it to deduct at source and pay to the NGF 5% of the sum due each respective state as legal fees. Two sets of letters were issued. The first set of letters were dated 7th or 8th November 2016 as the case may be. The second batch of letters were variously dated 28th and 29th November 2016. In the second batch of letters the state governments each authorized the Federal Ministry of Finance as follows:
“In the event that it is discovered that the amount paid/disbursed is higher than the amount due, refund/deductions should be made directly from the federation account”
- The copy of the two separate letters issued by the Ekiti State Government illustrates the above facts. [SHOWDOC]
- After several unsuccessful efforts to get NGF Chairman to honour the agreement with us and pay over the consultancy fees we confronted the NGF with a law suit. We filed Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017 at the Federal High Court in which the Attorney General of the Federation, The Federal Ministry of Finance, The Accountant General of the Federation, The Central Bank of Nigeria, The EFCC and the two NGF banks were parties. The NGF initially filed an Objection to the suit as well as the Attorney General and the other parties. However, the NGF being the principal party resolved to settle the matter with us. Terms of Settlement was agreed and signed. I signed for myself whilst my lead counsel witnessed the signing. HE Governor Abdul-aziz Yari Abubakar, as the then Chairman of the NGF signed for the NGF. The current Director General Asishana B. Okauru Esq. witnessed the signing for the NGF Chairman. In accordance with the resolution the documents were filed in court. The parties jointly adopted the Terms of Settlement as the CONSENT JUDGMENT in the case. In furtherance of the judgment the NGF have:
- Issued “LETTER NO OBJECTION FOR PAYMENT OF LEGAL/CONSULTANCY FEES TO LINAS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED REGARDING OVERDEDUCTIONS ON PARIS AND LONDON CLUB LOANS ON THE ACCOUNTS OF STATES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS (1995-2002)”, dated 7th July 2017. [SHOW DOC]
- paid two instalments of the judgment sum leaving the balance of $68mUSD (which the subject of the Promissory Notes which the current chairman of the NGF HE Gov. Kayode Fayemi has deliberately mired in needless and avoidable controversy).
- Additionally, at some point the state governments set-up a Committee of Governors to act on their behalf to review the issues the various consultants were having with the NGF. My team and I were invited through the NGF. We attended the Committee comprising of HE Rotimi Akeredolu SAN; HE Ibrahim Dankwambo; HE Nyesom Wike; HE Mohammed Abubakar; HE Simon Lalong and HE Aminu Tambuwal.
- While my team and I were still battling to get paid our consultancy fees the EFCC without prior invitation came to my house and arrested me on the allegation that I was paid $1.6bUSD. I was taken to their Head Office then at Wuse II, Abuja. An investigation into a payment I had not received commenced. Several files of documents were taken from my office. After several months of investigation, it was found that at the time I had not been paid any money for either of the consultancies. The EFCC Reports of three (3) separate investigations are available [SHOW DOC]. In the process of the investigation I was confronted with the complaint against me which to my utter shock and consternation was from the Hon Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF).
- It is obvious from the foregoing that the Federal Government is at the center of the refunds and the claims of the consultants hence the inevitable role by federal government functionaries who have regrettably been caught in the middle of what the NGF is deliberately spinning to win public opinion against our payments and avoid discharging obligations.
- The role of the NGF in the process of the federal government refunds is beyond speculation from the foregoing. The disposition of Governor Fayemi is therefore misleading. It has progressed and degenerated to the point of casting aspersions and personal slur on fellow public officers discharging the responsibilities of their public office.
- You can see from the above facts that this is consistent with the struggles we have encountered every step of the way to recover our consultancy fee. I am compelled to inform you of our experience when Mr. President approved payment of $350mUSD for Linas International Limited in connection with local government in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/130/2013:
- I was asked to sign a document accepting the approved sum in full and final payment of the judgment sum of $637mUSD.
- Governor Yari insisted that half of that money must go to NGF. I refused initially since I had already singed that the payment was in full and final payment.
- The Ministry of Justice brokered a solution whereby the document I earlier signed in full and final payment is returned to me and secondly Yari is compelled to sign an indemnity for the sum he is arm-twisting to collect against any claims by me against the FGN. Governor Yari signed.
- It is shocking that Governor Fayemi states that such indemnity is not valid and binding on NGF.
- We will do everything possible to enforce fully the judgment which has partly honoured since Governor Fayemi, like his predecessor is blackmailing everybody locally.
- It must be stated that we are members of the public who do not have the official platform with which the state governors muscle and arm twist their way out of responsibilities after enjoying the benefits of services rendered.
- From the foregoing certain issues stand out:
- Refunds to states did not start with this Federal Government.
- In 2013 when Judgment was entered in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/130/2013 the President Buhari led Federal Government was not in power.
- Does the current NGF Chairman know that the sum of $86.5mUSD and N19.4billion consultancy/legal fees was paid to NGF.
- The agreements and contracts in issue were agreed before the HAGF assumed office.
- The various Court Judgments were secured before HAGF assumed office
LIES OF GOVERNOR FAYEMI AND MISLEADING INFORMATION AND IMPRESSIONS BY THE NGF
- It is false that the NGF did not act or represent the state governors over the current round of refund on the Paris Club.
- It is also false that past regimes refused to pay the consultancy fees. Refunds started under the Obasanjo regime. If the NGF had paid in accordance with agreement this would have been averted.
- The NGF chairman, Governor Fayemi said there was no court Order of mandamus against the Federal Ministry of Finance and Attorney General. By Court Order dated 21st July, 2021 Federal High Court compelled Finance Minister, DMO DG and HAGF to either pay the value or issue Promissory Notes.
- The Governors gave the Federal Government Indemnity.
- The 1st Investigation over this matter was at the instance of the HAGF
- That the EFCC lacks technical expertise to Investigate this matter,
- Claims that states and local governments have not been fully paid notwithstanding that states have been paid $10billion following from the litigation I commenced In 2014 and LGAs $3.1billion following from the litigation I commenced In 2013.
- There no court judgment in favour of NGF against either Linas International Limited or Ned Nwoko Solicitors. On the contrary we have judgements against them which they are trying to circumvent by all means.
Dated this………day of …………………………..2022