Nigeria: $418m Paris Club Refund… Governors Fire Back At Malami, Accuse Him of Pursuing Self-Interests

Governors of the 36 states of the federation yesterday lost their cool and descended verbally on the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), over his utterances in respect of their stance on deduction of $418 million from the Paris Club refund.

Specifically, the governors described as self-serving and fraudulent Malami’s claim that they have no basis to reject the proposed deduction of $418 million from the Paris Club refund as.

Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, who stated the governors’ position after a meeting of the forum at the presidential villa, said Malami is acting in personal, selfish interest that would ultimately become clear when the matter is fully addressed before the court.

In a communique issued after the NGF meeting, the governors vowed that they would pursue the matter to the highest court of the land.

Reading from the communique, Fayemi said, “Governors extensively reviewed the purported attempts by the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance, to circumvent the law and a recent judgment of the Supreme Court to secure the approval of the federal legislative council to effect illegal payment of a sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancy in respect to the Paris Club refund, to state and local governments.

“The forum set up a committee comprising the chairman, the governor of Ekiti state, the vice chairman, the governor of Ondo State, the governor of Plateau State, the governor of Nasarawa state, and the governor of Ebonyi State to interface with the committee set up by Mr. President to review the matter.

“But the position of the Governors’ Forum is clear and unequivocal. Although this matter is subjudice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of a matter that is still being pursued in court.

“We’re constrained by the manner in which the honorable attorney has been going around various media houses and purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which governors had committed themselves agreed to, even though he is very much aware that that’s not the case.

“And we reject all of the claims that he has made on this issue. And we also insist that the state will not give up on insisting that these purported claims are fraudulent and will not stand as far as governors are concerned and we would take every constitutional and legal means to ensure that these purported consultancies are fully litigated upon by the highest court in the land.

“If the courts now fine governors, and the Nigerian governors forum and state liable, then we will cross that bridge when we get there. As far as we’re concerned, this is a matter that governors feel very strongly about and we do not believe that the Attorney General of the Federation is acting in the public interest, we believe he is acting in personal, selfish interest that will ultimately become clear when this matter is fully addressed, in the law court.”

On the ongoing strike by university unions, the governors appeal to both parties to sheath their sword and reach an amicable resolution.

“On the prolonged strike by Nigerian universities. The forum encourages the federal government and the academic staff union of universities to find meaningful resolutions to the lingering impasse and as proposed to engage with both parties just as we have done in the past in a bid to end the strike,” he said.

On the state of the economy, the governor said: “Finally, the forum extensively discussed the state of the Nigerian economy and security. Following a presentation by Mr. Bismarck Rewane, a member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council.

“The forum resolved to immediately engage with the federal government and other critical stakeholders labour, the presidential candidates of political parties and corporate actors on finding resolutions and suggestions to implement a set of immediate actions to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions in the country.”

The AGF had during a weekly ministerial briefing organised by the presidential communication team at the presidential villa maintained that despite stiff opposition from the governors, the federal government will continue to effect payment of $418 million to four contractors who executed contracts in respect of the Paris Club Refunds.

He was reacting allegations by the governors’ of fresh attempt by him and the minister of Finance to circumvent the law and the recent judgment of the Supreme Court by surreptitiously securing the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to effect payment of the sum of $418Million to contractors.

The governors recalled that they had earlier resisted an earlier approval of President Muhammadu Buhari under the instrumentality of the AGF and Finance minister to pay the said sum to the contractors through the issuance of promissory notes by approaching the court for redress through their state attorneys-general.

According to the chairman of the NGF and Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, the matter is currently pending before the Court of Appeal in Abuja for hearing.

But Malami said the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to his office conceding and agreeing that the payment should be made.

He explained that the government subjected the claims by the governors and the payment to the same scrutiny as the P&ID case.

FG Disbursed N471.9bn To States For SFTAS – FG

Meanwhile, the federal government has revealed that it has disbursed a total of N471.9 billion as grant to states under the $1.5 billion World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Programme.

It said it made the disbursement following the results achieved as shown by various annual assessments carried out by the independent verification agents.

The minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this yesterday at the official launch of the Primary Health Care Leadership Challenge organised by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) at the presidential villa, Abuja.

Ahmed said the very high level of political visibility and implementation structures created across the 36 states contributed largely to the successful implementation of the programme over the period 2018 to 2022.

“It is gratifying to note that beyond benefitting from the grants, all the 36 states in the federation have fully domesticated the fiscal reforms in their public financial management system through the adoption of appropriate processes and practices as well as legal and regulatory frameworks which are already yielding positive outcomes,” the minister explained.

She commended President Muhammadu Buhari for introducing laudable and enduring reforms in the Public Finance Management among which is the World Bank-Assisted States Fiscal Transparency Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) programme for results.

The minister also applauded the state governments for demonstrating high level of ownership, active peer learning and peer competition which culminated in very strong performance by most of them in all the key results areas of the SFTAS programme.

She said the states increased fiscal transparency and accountability; strengthened domestic revenue mobilization; increased efficiency in public expenditure and strengthened debt transparency and sustainability.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has pledged progressive increase in primary health care funding by ensuring efficient budgeting that is aligned to annual operational plans.

Ekiti State governor and chairman of the NGF, Kayode Fayemi, assured that the state governments will increase their annual budget to strengthen healthcare services in the country especially the Primary Health Care (PHC).

Fayemi, on behalf of the 36 governors, promised to promptly release the approved budget to the state primary health care boards, and primary health care facilities.

NGF also promised to recruit requisite health workforce to ensure that all primary health care facilities have the minimum staffing requirements appropriate for their level in line with the state’s minimum service package.

Fayemi said, “On behalf of all of us, the 36 state governors, and members of the Nigerian Governor forum, this is our statement of commitment to strengthening the primary health care system in Nigeria.

“Following the induction to the Seattle Declaration by 36 governors of Nigeria in November 2019. The Nigerian governors’ Forum representing the 36 states of the Federation, hereby affirm our commitment to strengthen the primary health care system in the country.

“We therefore adopt and confirm our commitment in line with the Seattle Declaration as outlined below; improving the governance of the primary healthcare system as a sub national level by fully implementing the primary health care under one roof policy, and providing active leadership for primary health care through regular engagement with relevant Primary Health Care stakeholders, and quarterly Primary Health Care performance review at the State Executive Council meetings

“Promote progressive increase in primary health care funding by ensuring efficient budgeting that is aligned to annual operational plans, promptly releasing approved budget to the state primary health care board, and primary health care facilities and ensuring that there is a mechanism in place for basic health care provision, fund implementation and oversight at the state and facility levels.

“Recruit requisite health workforce to ensure that all primary health care facilities have the minimum staffing requirements appropriate for their level in line with the state’s minimum service package.

“Institute a culture of use of evidence for decision making, by ensuring that the data quality across all primary health care facilities is progressively improved.

“Develop a state led and state on local government area levels, Primary Health Care leadership challenge for local government area chairman, for sustainability and strengthening the commitment of the local government area chairmen to primary health.”

On his part, the country director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeremie Zoungrana, congratulated the governors for accepting to support and be part of the PHC Leadership Challenge Initiative, said the PHC Challenge Fund represents a unique opportunity to motivate and publicly recognize ownership and leadership at the subnational level.

He assured that the PHC health indicators would be tracked to support the NGF build governor-level accountability, improve performance management and enhance investments in critical areas of PHC.

Zoungrana said, “The Challenge Fund will also leverage other BMGF investments that focus on improving state level data ownership, analysis, quality, and use.

“Under the Challenge, all 36 states are eligible for monetary grants awarded to one best performing and one most improved state within each of the country’s six geopolitical zones demonstrating the most progress against all indicators as per the agreed performance results framework as well as one state nationally displaying the most improved performance (total of 13 awards).

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is fully aligned with the Government of Nigeria’s determination to reform and revitalize PHC through the current effort by the Ministry of Health and the National Primary health Care Development Agenda.

Also speaking, both the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Daniel Okoh and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, restated the need to increase the budgetary allocation to PHC.

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