Ned Nwoko, one of government’s six creditors controversially owed $418million debts associated with the Paris Club refund, has criticised the Nigerian Governors’ Forum recent protest letter against the payment of the money.
Nwoko accused the governors of alleged diversion of a staggering US$142 million [N58 billion] which accrued to him, as part of judgement debts on excess deductions from the local governments.
He said the amount was part of the US$350 million earlier approved by the Nigerian government for his firm, Linas International Limited as consultancy payment on Paris Club refunds to LGAs.
Nwoko said there was no justification to continue to withhold the payment of his $142 million share of the money.
The NGF had in a recent submission queried Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, for issuing promissory notes in favour of judgment creditors or consultants relating to Paris and London Club refunds.
The governors claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari approved the payment of the $418 million Paris Club judgment debt despite pending court cases.
The NGF through its lawyer, Chief Femi Falana (SAN) stressed that the Minister ought to have stayed the execution of judgment connected with payments of legal and consultancy fees arising from London Club Debt Buy Back and London Club Debt Exit Payment, which is the alleged 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.
But in a counter letter dated September 06, 2021 to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and copied to the Minister of Finance through his team of lawyers, Nwoko argued that “it is dishonest, deceitful and malicious for the governors to pretend that it is wrong to obey court orders”.
“It is always easy to forget that people had paid back to EFCC the monies paid to them without justification. EFCC has investigated and issued three different reports on the involvement of Ned Nwoko with respect to Paris Club Refunds and all the investigations exonerated him,” he continued.
“We cannot fail to remind you Sir, that the criminal first investigation on the role of Ned Nwoko and Linas International Ltd with Paris Club Refund claims was at your instructions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in 2016. Following that first investigation two subsequent investigations were carried out by the EFCC and all affirmed the pivotal roles of Ned Nwoko and Linas International Ltd in the consultancy for the Paris Club Reforms”.
The lawyers pointed out that by the terms of engagement, Nwoko spent his funds to execute the assignment on the clear condition that where no money was recovered there was no liability to the local and state governments, NGF and ALGON.
They explained that the former lawmaker bore the entire risk and loss while he engaged other professionals and in some cases borrowed through private arrangements to achieve the objective.
The letter further stated, “The states and local governments never had confidence in the chances of success of these consultancies and will not stake their money to fund the inherent costs therein. Hence, they agreed to the percentages now being enforced and left the consultants to, “sink or swim”.
“The Consultants having succeeded, the state and local governments have taken the benefits and in what is becoming habitual of politicians at state and local government levels they do not desire to pay in accordance with agreements…”
“It bears reiteration, under the prevailing atmosphere of misinformation, to recall that the present payments are part of a broad policy initiative of the Federal Government to liquidate judgment debts which are segmented into Categories A, B, and C. The present payment falls into category A for judgment debts of states and local governments, which were arrived at through the due process of the law.”
The lawyers added that categories B and C comprise of judgment debts against Ministries Departments and MDAs worth approximately US$700 million.
While commending the Federal Government for the bold policy initiative to liquidate the judgment debts, Ned Nwoko legal team averred that it was “common knowledge that the states and local governments have become a graveyard of so many companies, businesses and upstarts ventures who are lured into rendering services for which they take benefits and refuse to pay”.
The lawyers recalled that their “client gave substantial concessions to the NGF and discounted the sum he is entitled to in the judgments being enforced”.
Furthermore, they drew attention to the fact that the acceptance of Promissory Notes instead of direct cash payment, as was done for the states and local governments in the refunds results to a further loss of value by our client.
“If our client and perhaps other consultants were paid simultaneously with the refunds, which is the responsible thing to do, there would have been no need for the several law suits which are now being enforced and for which the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Finance is being vilified,” they stated.
The lawyers argued, “The facts and circumstances of the case at hand with respect to suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/130/ 2013, is entirely different from local government funds coming from allocations to the Federation Account. The funds involved in this case were judgment sums recovered from the Federal Government by the Linas International Limited in favour of local governments.”