By Chizoba Ogbeche, Abuja and Patrick Ahanor, Benin City
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered that the Paris-London Club Refund bank accounts of Abia, Cross River, and Delta states be frozen. Th is followed an ex-parte order issued by Justice Yusuf Halilu, following allegations that the governors of the three states preferred payment to family members, friends, and cronies in the guise of settling the fees for consultancy services at the expense of the real consultant progenitor of the Paris-London Club Refund.
Th e accounts to be frozen are; Abia state Paris and London Club Debit Refund, 1019892950, UBA Bank Plc; CRS Paris and London Club Debit Refund, 101989719, UBA Bank Plc; and DTSG Paris and London Club Debit Refund, 1012906702, Zenith Bank Plc, respectively. Abia state government reportedly owes the real consultant progenitor the sum of $11,325,000 and N1.72bn; Cross River state government owes the sum of $8,050,000 and N1.2bn; while Delta owes $27,274,135 and N3 billion.
Th e court order was sequel to an affi davit in support of ex-parte originating summons sworn to by Dr. Maurice Ibe, the Chairman and Managing Director of Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd, and fi led before the court by his Counsel; Alex Marama, Charles Ude, and Kenneth N. Esq Ibe, according to the affi davit, said there was an urgent need for the court to direct the third defendants (United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc and Zenith Bank Nig. Plc) in the suits CV/2470/17, CV/2536/17, CV/2469/17 and motions M/8777/17, M8780/17, M/8784/17 to, in the interim, stop further disbursement of the money already in or accruing to the respective Paris-London Club Refund accounts domiciled with them which belong to the three states respectively.
Th e court also ordered the banks to set up an escrow account where the said funds will be deposited pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice. Abia state government, under the immediate past administration of Th eophilus Orji, had engaged Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd. on November 3, 2014, to pursue the refund of excess deductions on foreign loans and miscellaneous charges in exchange of 30 percent of any fund recovered. Similarly, Cross River government engaged the same consultancy fi rm on the same date for the same
purpose in exchange of 20 per cent of any fund recovered. Also, Delta state government, under Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, engaged the services of Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd. in exchange of 30 per cent of any fund recovered. Justice Halilu, while granting the order freezing the accounts, adjourned the suit to September 7, 2017, for hearing. Retirees caution Obaseki on fund Meanwhile, retirees in Edo state have said its ongoing street protest “is aimed at drawing government’s attention to our unpaid gratuities and pensions.
” Th e group said the protest was part of eff orts geared towards holding Governor Godwin Obaseki accountable for the state’s share of the Paris Club refund. Spokesperson for the aggrieve pensioners, Mr. Gabriel Osemwenkhae, disclosed this during a peaceful protest at the ever-busy King Square in Benin City, the state capital. Gabriel said: “Th is agitation will be continued till we are paid. Governor Obaseki should take cue from other states that are already paying pensioners with Paris Club Refund. “If we keep quiet, the money will be diverted. It’s our money.
He should please pay us. “Our creditors are asking us to pay for our debts. Our former PRO died two weeks ago in this struggle.” Th e pensioners further disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari, had, while releasing the cash to states, directed them to use it for payment of outstanding salaries and pensions, alleging that the state governor was however adamant to their plight. A breakdown of the tranche payments of the Paris Club Refund cash to states, showed that Edo state received N18 billion.
According to him, the aggrieved retirees are owed gratuity from 2012 till date and also owed between fi ve and 42 months in pensions. Th e spokesman, who also denied the allegation that they were sponsored by “antidevelopment elements,” said, “if he (Obaseki) pays and meets us here, let him arrest us.” But the governor, in a statement through his Media Adviser on Communication, Crusoe Osagie, described the pensioners’ protest as “stagemanaged.”