Paris Club refund: Firm drags Rivers govt to court over refusal to pay consultancy fee

The Rivers State government has been dragged before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) by a consulting firm over an alleged debt of N25 billion owed, concerning the Paris Club refund.

The claimants, J.O. Atunbi, trading under the name and style of J. O. Atunbi and Associates and Mauritz Walton Nigeria Limited, in the suit claimed that the Rivers government failed to pay the agreed 18 per cent of the sum of N143 billion as consultancy fees for its role leading to the Federal Government’s refund of excess deductions in the Paris Club loans.

Defendants in the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/374/2021, are Rivers State government and the state Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice.

The claimants claimed that the Rivers State government had engaged them sometime in March 2014, “as consultants for the propose of forensic analysis and reconciliation of the deductions and consequential recovery of the excess debits/deductions which appeared to have been made against the first defendant by the Federal Government.”

The claimants, who are chartered accountants who render financial services for corporate and governmental entities, particularly in the area of international business and financial consultancy, debt management and recovery, further stated that the defendants in the engagement letter agreed to pay them 18 per cent of all monies recovered/paid from/by the Federal Government upon reconciliation and agreement on the exact excess debits.

Following the agreement, the firm claimed that they intensified their engagement with the Federal Government which led to the discovery between June 1995 and March 2002, the Rivers State government suffered excess deductions regarding its external loans/debt repayment in the total sum of $462,593,183:07, which the claimants, therefore, demanded to be refunded to the state government.

The firm in a 33-paragraph statement of claim by the Chief Executive Officer of Mauritz Walton Nigeria Limited, Dr Maurice Ibe, the claimants said they continued interfacing with the Federal Government on behalf of the Rivers government till when the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari came on board.

According to them, the Buhari administration in 2016 agreed to commence refund with payment of 50per cent of the outstanding excess deductions to Rivers State and other states with a similar situation.

“The Federal Government through its relevant agencies made good its word and paid to the first defendant in/by three instalments between December 2016 and September 2018, or thereabouts, the Naira equivalent of the sum of $296,014,055 being the sum of N90,839,170,683:84, based on the said approximate exchange rate of N305/310 to $1.

“Notwithstanding its receipt and enjoyment of the refund of excess debits on its foreign loans account by the claimants’ intervention in the circumstances, the first defendant has refused/neglected/failed to pay the claimants the agreed 18 per cent thereof in full or in part, despite several requests and seemingly unfruitful meetings between the Rivers State government and Dr Maurice Ibe over a period of 30 months.

“The defendants still persisted in their failure/refusal to pay and finding the situation inexplicable and intolerable the claimants accordingly instructed their legal practitioners who by a letter to the Governor of Rivers State dated January 2019 demanded the payment of the agreed consultancy fee,” Dr Ibe claimed.

He added that they engaged the services of senior lawyers, led by Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN to continue to discuss with the Rivers State government following its failure to respond to their solicitor’s letter, demanding payment of their consultancy fee or for a meeting of the parties for a resolution of the matter.

The claimants claimed that Rivers State governor, Nysome Wike, promised to settle the case outside the court, a promise which he has since reneged.

The claimants said convinced that the defendants have no defence to their claims and seeing no other option, they decided upon initiating the suit.

They, therefore, sought an order of the court compelling the defendants to pay them (claimants).

Apart from the N25 billion, they are also seeking an interest rate of 20per cent per annum from November 2018 until judgment and thereafter at the rate of 10per cent per annum until full and final payment of the N25 billion debt.

The claimants are further asking the court for a cost of N400 million or as may be assessed against the defendants.

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Paris Club refund: Firm drags Rivers govt to court over refusal to pay consultancy fee

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