There is growing tension between Nigerian governors and a ring of powerful presidential aides over some $418 million (about N159 billion at the current official exchange rate of $1 to N380.5) said to be owed six individuals and entities who purportedly offered services to states and their local governments on the payment of Paris Club debts.
While the top presidential aides led by the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari, are scrambling to start the disbursement as quickly as possible, the governors, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), led by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, are making a last-ditch effort to stop it.
We are in possession of tens of sensitive correspondences exchanged by high-ranking players in the matter, highlighting desperate moves to begin the disbursements through the issuance of promissory notes that will be funded through deductions from states and local governments monthly allocations.
From documents seen by this newspaper, the moves to begin the payments are against Mr. Buhari’s directive issued in January this year, and in disregard for the red flag raised by the governors about the legitimacy of the indebtedness.
The Fayemi-led NGF is demanding that the payment be suspended until a forensic audit of the indebtedness is carried out.
But Mr. Gambari, who is spearheading the moves for the prompt payment of the money, is backed by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, both of whom argue that the court judgments which awarded the sums to the creditors must be hurriedly obeyed.
But among the three of them, Mr. Malami is the only figure that has been in the picture since 2016 when the conversations among the top echelons of the Buhari administration about payment of government’s judgment debts started.
Mr. Gambari only became a party to the matter following his appointment in May 2020 after the death of his predecessor, Abba Kyari, who died from COVID-19 complications in April 2020.
Mrs. Ahmed also became involved following her appointment as finance minister after her predecessor, Kemi Adeosun, resigned in September 2018 in the wake of an NYSC certificate forgery scandal.
The deals that piled up judgment debts against states, LGs
Currently, the states and local governments are, by the calculations of both the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ahmed, and Mr. Malami, indebted to the tune of $418,953,670.59 (about N159 billion at the current official exchange rate of $1 to N380.5) to six individuals and entities.
The breakdown of the debts is contained in a series of letters sent separately by Mrs. Ahmed and Mr. Malami to the President and the office of Mr. Buhari’s Chief of Staff. PREMIUM TIMES exclusively obtained copies of these letters.
The humongous debts arose from judgments passed in favour of the six claimants in four cases relating to the refund to the states and local governments, excess deductions made by the Federal Government between 1995 and 2002 to satisfy Paris and London clubs loans.
According to the two ministers, the claimants or judgment creditors were engaged by the states and local governments as consultants or contractors “in the recovery” of the London/Paris clubs refunds, as well as in the “utilization” of the recovered funds.
They explained that the contracts and agreements were tied to the London/Paris clubs refunds, and the claimants had simply gone to court to claim their share of the money.
We have found out how the suits were designed to succeed with little or no chance of failure.