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N1trn Paris Club refunds: How we sealed deal with Buhari – Govs

By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz

Governors of the 36 states of the federation at the weekend gave an insight into how they got the federal government to release N1trillion, being 50 per cent refunds for excess deductions from states for London-Paris Club debt repayment.
According to them, the release was only a conclusion of a process which started over 10 years ago, of monies legitimately due o the states.

The governors, under the banner of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), explained that what they succeeded in doing this time around was “to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to authorise the release of the funds for disbursement to deserving states” in line with the president’s “desire to reflate the economy at a time when states were insolvent and unable to pay salaries.”
In a statement entitled: “The NGF and Paris-London Clubs Loan Refund: Putting the records straight” signed by the head of media and public affairs of the forum, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, the secretariat also said nothing outward happened with the proceed of the refund.

Blueprint recalls that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) commenced release of the first tranche of N55.73 billion to the states, late last year, while President Buhari on Thursday approved the release of the second tranche.
Our correspondent gathered that President Buhari had approved the payment of over N1 trillion in totals; being 50 per cent the federal government owed the states.
According to the Forum, the nod given by the President for the release of the second tranche of the money was only an indicator that the funds were judiciously used in line with the guidelines and purpose for which it was meant.

“It should be noted that if the federal government under the watch of President Buhari had found anything corrupt, illegal and unpatriotic about the payment or the utilisation of the first tranche of the Paris-London Clubs Fund repayment to states, it would not have approved the payment of the second tranche to the states.
“After all, we all know the unimpeachable level of commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari on the issues of transparency and accountability.”

The governors, however, said, the drawn up guidelines for utilisation of the refunds were not sacrosanct orders as it was voluntarily agreed to by all members.
“It is true that there were conditions attached to the disbursements but these arose from the collective and voluntary resolution of the governors and not any draconian order from any quarters. It shows that the governors themselves are responsible, sensitive and compassionate enough to understand the plight of Nigerians that they govern and therefore work in the interest of their people.”

Reacting to media reports of alleged illegalities in the process and diversion of parts of the refunds to private pockets, the statement said, “Categorically, nothing illegal has been committed in the entire process leading to the final disbursement to states.
“Due process was diligently followed and each and every approving authority, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the Auditor General of the Federation as well as the National Assembly, were duly informed from the beginning to the end of all the transactions.”

Also, contrary to the insinuations, notably by sources at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that part of the refund was wired through private accounts allegedly to bribe leadership of the National Assembly, the governors insist that “nothing illegal was done and no money was paid into the personal account of any governor, legislator or top officials at any of the levels and arms of government in the country.”

The governors acknowledged that respective state governments had engaged consultants at various stages of the process to ease off the process of accessing the refunds, but added that the consultants were eventually collapsed into a consortium of only a few and were “reimbursed according to their input.”
The NGF chided reports on diversion of parts of the funds describing such reports as “not only preposterous but mischievous.”

“This is more so because none of the reports was able to identify a single governor, not to talk of seven. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) itself had issued a release exculpating all the governors, saying it was investigating the matter further.
“But instead of allowing the EFCC to conclude its investigations, a particular section of the media resorted to this unsavoury falsehood which puts the media and its practitioners in bad light.

“We know that in a democracy comments are free, but facts must be sacred too. Media practitioners must abide by their professional ethics if the progress of the country is their motivation for doing their work.
“They must know that misinforming the public does nobody any good. Instead, at the end of the day, it is the nation and its peoples that suffer from the tension and disunity often generated by the antics of mischief-makers. As partners in progress, the media must embrace responsible ethical conduct and always seek the truth before rushing to publish.”

About Muhammed Adamu