The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said that the issue of the Paris Club refund, inherited by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015 will soon be resolved before the expiration of the tenure of his administration.
“It is important to state that it was an inherited issue that started in 2011 with the engagement of a consultant by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) and the subsequent issues that boiled down to the passing of judgement in 2013, in respect of which the Governors’ Forum and ALGON were in agreement,” Malami said on Tuesday while featuring on the NTA’s Good Morning Nigeria programme.
He said the Paris Club refund issue was discussed at the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting and a memo relating to the deduction and high-profile inherited debt was stepped down to allow a formation of a cabinet committee, under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osibanjo for parties to sit to a round table to deliberate on it, out of the desire for transparency and accountability of the Federal Government.
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He said Vice President Osibanjo’s led committee will sit with ALGON, the Governors’ Forum, the consultants and other parties, to look at the issue objectively before taking a final decision.
Malami, however, said, there is no time limit for which the committee will submit its report but noted that, since the present administration has limited time to wind up, the committee’s report will be turned in as soon as possible.
The AGF explained that ALGON had, through the instrumentality of the Governors’ Forum, presented a claim of $318 million and that part payment was made for the entire Paris Club refund established, “A point that they are in no way contesting.
“When this matter became an issue of the judicial contest, ALGON and the Governors’ Forum submitted to a consent judgement before a court of law, agreeing that these deductions are effected and payment be made.
“What are you talking about, first, by engaging a consultant, submitting to a consent judgement, effecting payment in your own right, providing a letter of no-objection by ALGON, letters of indemnity by the Governors and approving that the Federal Government should effect payments.
“Are you now saying that the Federal Government should allow itself to be subjected to ridicule, embarrassment arising from the attachment of its assets, taking into consideration that, at a point, action is instituted against Federal Government, and this time, joining ALGON as a plaintiff against FG and you think the FG, the AGF will fold hand and allow judgement against the interest of the Federal Government?
“The implication is that the Federal Government will be embarrassed, its assets will be attached; including FG’s financial assets, foreign reserves and any other associated income of the Federal Government deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria, can now be executed upon and payment made to the consultant,” he explained further.
According to him, the issue, “It’s an inherited issue and we are trying to address it as a government of the day,” and lamented the way and manner the financial autonomy of the Local Governments is being trampled upon by state Governors.