Paris Club Refund: NUJ Demands Attention on Workers Salaries, Pensions

The B-Zone of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has demanded that state governments across the country should channel the second tranche of the Paris Club refund for the payment of accumulated workers salaries and pension as directed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a communique issued after its zonal meeting in Akure, Ondo State on Saturday,  the union also called on media owners to devise better strategies of improving the welfare of media practitioners to justify their commitments to duties.
The B-Zone of the union comprises six States in the South West region – Oyo, Ekiti, Osun, Lagos, Ogun and Ondo.
The communique was signed by the Zonal Secretary, Lawal Afolabi; Communique Drafting Committee Chairman, Abiodun Olalere; and members of the committee, Bola Ogunlayi, Leke Adegboye.
The communique read: “The Union demands that state governments across the country especially in the south-west channel the second tranche of the Paris Club refund for the payment of accumulated workers salaries and pension as directed by President Buhari.
” That NUJ B-Zone notes with serious concern the high rate at which government and  private media workers are being owed salaries, and calls on media owners to devise better strategies of improving the welfare of media practitioners to justify their commitments to their duties.
“That the Union condemns the recent delay in the confirmation of new INEC RECs as a result of the Executive and the National Assembly power play which has the potentials of truncating our democracy and obviously not in the interest of the citizenry.
“That the Zone commends the recent working visit of the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, to the south west and calls on Federal government to improve power supply and address the deplorable condition of roads in the region for enhanced economic development.
“The Union lamented that poor electricity supply is affecting smooth operations of Radio and Television stations.
“That the Zone expresses satisfaction with the steady appreciation of Naira against dollars, urging the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and federal government to evolve more policies that will make the naira strong and move the country out of economic recession which is already taking its toll on the citizenry”, the communique read.
The Zonal meeting which had the National President of NUJ, Alhaji Waheed Odusile in attendance, was presided over by the Vice President of the Zone, Cosmas Oni.
It also had the Chairmen and Secretaries of all the member states in attendance.

EFCC Finds $86m Paris Club Refund In Nigeria Governor’s Forum Account

The Economic and FinancialCrimes Commission (EFCC) has discovered more cash believed to be part of the London-Paris Club loan refund. The US$86,546,526.65 was remitted into the account of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF). The account is said to have been depleted to about $17million as at the time the probe started. The EFCC is probing how the cash got into the account, who remitted it and for what purpose.

“The cash was paid into the forum’s domiciliary account in GTB tagged: 0023577047 with sort code 058083215,” the source said, adding that the payment followed a November 21, 2016, memo on the remittance into the NGF’s account which was titled “Consultants fee.”

The cash was described as consultancy and legal fees as the case with the N19 billion which was allegedly diverted from the refund.

“This development has justified the earlier peg of our investigation that the part of the London-Paris Club loan refunds was paid into two accounts of the NGF,” the source said, pleading not to be named because he has no authority to talk to the media.

“Operatives are tracking how the $86.5m was used and for what purpose. We want to know whether the affected financial and legal consultants exist or not.”

The Nation had exclusively reported that the Presidency was uncomfortable with how some governors managed the refund.

The Federal Government released N522.74 billion to 35 states as a refund of over-deductions on London-Paris Club loans.

President Muhammadu Buhari directed the release of the refund to enable states to pay salaries and pensions.

But more than N19billion of the refund has been enmeshed in controversy over payment of consultancy fees. Some consultants were yet to be paid as at press time.

Some of the infractions noticeable in the management of the first tranche of the London-Paris Club loan refund are:

computation of state records done at a private home in Maitama, Abuja; accounts initially opened in the names of two lead consultants, but the details of who to be paid were later changed; N19b remitted into two NGF accounts; commission to consultants cut from 10% to 2% but 5% was on paper as paid; the CBN paid directly to each state without the knowledge of the Accountant-General of the Federation; and part of the N19b commission was traced to a governor’s account and some individuals, including some members of the National Assembly.

It was also discovered that besides the central consultants, governors hired other consultants, with some conceding about 10-20% commission to them.

In some states, governors served as consultants through proxies.

Some consultants are yet to be paid because the NGF changed the commission formula as soon as the first tranche was remitted, The Nation learnt.

Besides, some governors deviated from using 25 percent to 50 percent for payment of outstanding salaries and pension as agreed with President Buhari.

Zamfara State Governor Yari Diverts N500m Paris Club Refund To Repay His Loan

A Source from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) told newsmen that Governor Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum diverted N500 million from the recent Paris Club refund to pay off his loan.

Mr. Yari withdrew N500m from the N19 billion Paris Club refund allegedly diverted to a special account of the Nigeria Governors Forum from the N522b allocated to the 36 states and deposited the sum into a mortgage bank account.

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency, EFCC, also told The Nation, “Of the N19 billion, we discovered that a consultant brought by the North-West governor was paid N2.2 billion. From the N2.2 billion, the governor got N500 million.”

Mr. Yari then transferred the sum to the mortgage bank from which he had borrowed N800m to purchase to properties in 2013. According to the source, the governor was able to renegotiate his debt from N800m to N500m.

The EFCC, however, traced the sum, knowing it was connected to Mr. Yari and the Paris Club loan. The mortgage bank then forfeited the N500m to the EFCC.

News of the Zamfara State governor’s embezzlement comes just one day after SaharaReporters revealed that Senate President Bukola Saraki was being investigated by the EFCC for his role in the embezzlement of N3.5b from the Paris Club loan through the slush fund placed at the Access Bank by the Nigeria Governors Forum, who claimed it was meant for consultants.

The Looting Of London/Paris Club Loan Refund, By Femi Falana

In spite of the official pressure and blackmail mounted by a clique of power mongers on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission it is commendable that that the anti-graft agency was able to conduct a detailed investigation into the looting of the N522 billion London/Paris Loan Refund paid to the 36 states and local 774 governments in the country.

The alleged criminal diversion of the sum of N19 billion out of the loan refund through the account of the Nigeria Governors Forum is the height of impunity as there is no statutory nexus between the friendly club of state governors and the Federation Account. Happily, the accounts warehousing the said sum of N19 billion in some banks have since been frozen by the EFCC.

Once again, out of the stolen fund, the sum of N3.5 billion is alleged to have been traced to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and his close associates. In a dodgy and watery defense of his alleged involvement in a malfeasance that is akin to a crime against humanity, Dr. Saraki has described his indictment as “mudslinging” by the EFCC. However, since the investigation of the monumental fraud had been concluded before the recent rejection of Mr. Magu as EFCC chairman by the Senate the resort to vulgar abuse by the Senate president is diversionary and escapist. In any case, whether it is mudslinging or not Dr. Saraki has not denied the fact that the N3.5 billion traced to him forms part of the N19 billion located in 15 frozen bank accounts.

In a country where workers are owed arrears of salaries and pensioners are not paid their gratuity and pension it is immoral and criminal to corner bailout funds and loan refund earmarked by the federal government for payment of outstanding entitlements of serving and retired employees. Therefore, given the gravity of the criminal offense arising from the looting of the London/Paris loan refund the EFCC should recover the stolen money and ensure that all the indicted suspects are charged to court without any further delay. This is the time to call off the bluff of a few public officers who have sworn to frustrate the war against corruption being waged by the Mohammadu Buhari administration.

Paris Club Refund and State-Level Accountability, By Eze Onyekpere

A majority of the sub-national governments in Nigeria are adrift and seem to be floating on the sea leading to a predictable destination. That destination is one of perdition for the majority of citizens. However, the drivers, being the governors and their cronies in the executive and legislative arms of government, have positioned themselves to jump out of the boat, some minutes before the final sinking, leaving the others to their fate. For most of the states, it is a state of hopelessness, insolvency, lack of accountability, transparency and value for money and where the entire state machinery brings no value proposition for development.

The recent controversy about the use of the Paris Club debt refund to states brings out the nature of governance at the state level in its true light. The controversy borders on whether the Federal Government should release the second tranche of funds due to states in the light of the unaccounted use of the first tranche released late 2016. This kind of situation creates a huge dilemma for any enlightened and knowledgeable mind, especially if one is at home to constitutionalism on a federal setting, and the rudiments of the 1999 Constitution. It is imperative to put the issues in their proper context by recalling that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 creates federal and state legislatures. The federal legislature being the Senate and House of Representatives is responsible for lawmaking, including the power of appropriation. It also exercises oversight on designated federal executive activities. At the state level, the state House of Assembly is the legislative arm and exercises powers similar to the powers of the National Assembly in state matters. This also includes the power of appropriation and oversight.

The fact that the Federal Government has started refunding the states monies it over-deducted from them during the debt forgiveness negotiations should be a welcome development. It is not a grant or a benevolent disbursement by the Federal Government to the states. Rather, it is the act of giving back to the states what actually belonged to them in the first instance and was wrongly or inadvertently taken away from them by the Federal Government. Therefore, speaking in abstract legalism, the Federal Government has no power to dictate how the states should use the money so returned. The money should be subject to the appropriation and oversight of the state Houses of Assembly. So, the current federal regime that seeks to ask for an account of how the first tranche was used before disbursing the second could be legally challenged vide the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.

But legalism was enacted to serve the interest of society and its welfare and development. We live in a situation where governors are emperors and have pocketed state Houses of Assembly. None of the Assemblies is as vibrant as the Senate or House of Representatives, no matter the shortcomings of the latter. Pray, in which state can the executive budget estimates be subjected to a rational scrutiny before approval? In which state are commissioners or high ranking executive members summoned and grilled on their activities that are not in the people’s interest? Thus, a docile legislature which abdicates all constitutional powers and thereby renders the checks and balances expected in a presidential system invalid contributes nothing to the process of accountability and transparency. It is in this context that Nigerians have boldly asked governors to indicate what they used the first tranche of funds for. None of the governors has been reasonably forthcoming with explanations. Very few have provided wooly and nebulous answers which cannot fly in the face of reason and common sense.

The governors are challenged to account for the funds they have earlier received through specific expenditure heads tied to the receipts. No amount of bluffing will make this matter to fizzle out. General statements avowing prudent use of the money are not sufficient. Details, details and details are what Nigerians want. It is the height of insensitivity and wickedness to continue mismanaging money from the refund when workers and pensioners have not been paid and at a time hunger and starvation are the lots of a majority of the citizens.

The governors see themselves as owing obligations to none. Very few publish their budgets and make them available to Nigerians at little or no cost. Publication of annual audited accounts is also a luxury in most states. Unlike the Federal Government, which in these days is growing intolerant of opposition, state governors do not tolerate the least dissent. As emperors, they are ready to deploy all powers of the state to silence opposition or demands for accountability and transparency. This has left most of the states underdeveloped as some former governors and current ones have impoverished their states through conscienceless aggravated looting of the treasury.

The foregoing is further compounded by very weak civil society institutions at the state level. Very few institutions have the sustained capacity to ask questions about the use of state resources. Labour movements that used to be at the forefront of democratic demands have lost their teeth and now make muted demands which fizzle out with executive pressure. On the other hand, professional groups like the Nigerian Bar Association do not fully understand the role of the legal practitioner in a poor, backward developing society and as such, do not see a clear interventionist role in holding governments to account. The media focuses on a topic for a while and moves on in these days of “one week one trouble”. Thus, there is fragility in the civil society and it does not act together and speak with one voice. So, all the governors do is to allow discussions to roll and fizzle out whilst they continue the mismanagement.

The resolution of these challenges in the interest of the people is not far-fetched. The Federal Government is in a position and should publish the full details of all monies due to the states under this refund including what has so far been disbursed and what is outstanding and the schedule for the release of outstanding sums. Although the Federal Government is not properly positioned in law to control state finances and their expenditure, it can apply its leverage of having given states bailout packages to demand greater transparency and accountability. Yes, there were conditions attached to the earlier bailouts. This raises the poser about states that did not access the bailout. How do we ensure that they comply? This could be resolved by other state level mechanisms. All the actors in civil society mentioned above and others not mentioned, including religious, community and cultural leaders should come together at the state level for a movement for accountability, transparency and value for money to make targeted demands on governors and their accomplice Houses of Assembly. They should make it clear to the governors and legislators that the reckoning day will come during the 2019 elections and those who refused to work with the people will be shown the door.

These demands must be firmly and sternly made and passed on to the governors and their acolytes. No man, woman, boy, girl or infant should be afraid to demand for the record of service from his servant. For as long as he serves, a servant can never be greater than his master. The governor is merely a servant of the people.

EFCC Traces Paris Fund to Saraki’s Aides

Three aides of Senate President Bukola Saraki are being probed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission( EFCC) over the alleged diversion of N19 billion out of the London-Paris loan refund of N522.7 billion.

According to a report by The Nation, 15 accounts of some individuals and companies have been frozen as the probe deepened and even a damning report already submitted to President Muhammadu Buhari..

Investigators of the agency have in the interim traced $183,000 (N71, 370,000) of the refund to a jeweller’s account in Dubai.

The Nation, quoting from the damning report, said the anti-graft agency is probing, apart from Saraki’s aides, a former Heritage Bank Executive Director Mr. Robert Mbonu, and three others on how N3.5billion was wired into some accounts.

Under probe are Melrose General Services Limited, the Relationship Manager to the Senate President, Kathleen Erhimu, Obiora Amobi, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr. Kolawole Shittu and Oladapo Joseph Idowu.

Mbonu is said to be one of the consultants engaged by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).

The Nation suggested that the damning report may have fuelled Ibrahim Magu’s rejection by the Senate as the substantive chairman of the EFCC.

An EFCC source said: “This agency has frozen more than 15 accounts used to divert the N19billion remitted into the account of the Nigerian Governors Forum(NGF).

“Some of these accounts include those of Bureau De Change, companies, mortgage firms, and personal types.

“We have been able to recover some money from these frozen accounts. Also, some bankers have made useful statements to this commission.”

“Mr. Robert Mbonu is alleged to have received N3.5billion into his company’s (Melrose General Services Limited’s) account from the NGF through Account 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank.

“Investigation revealed that one Kathleen Erhimu is the Relationship Manager to Dr. Bukola Saraki’s account with Access Bank.

“That Saraki at a meeting introduced one Joseph Oladapo Idowu and Gbenga Peter Makanjuola to her and Hon. Makanjuola thereafter introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Ms Kathleen Erhimu.

“That Mbonu operates an account , Melrose General Services with Access Bank Plc 0005892453 and 0005653500 which was up till 13th December a business account.

“That Halima Kyari , the Head of Private Banking Group stated in a letter dated 13th December , 2016 , Mr. Robert Mbonu requested a transfer of Melrose General Services Company account from Business Account to a Private Banking Group Platform as he was expecting huge funds into the account.

“Subsequently, on the 14th December , the sum of N3.5billion was lodged into Melrose General Services Company account number 0005892453 domiciled in Access Bank from the Nigerian Governors Forum(NGF).

“That thereafter Mr. Obiora Amobi and Hon. Gbenga Makanjuola were introduced to Access Bank as representatives of Melrose General Services Limited by Robert Mbonu to enable them cash withdrawals from the account.

“That one Oluyemi Braithwaite, the MD/ CEO of Reinex Bureau de Change, Caddington Capital Limited and Westgate Limited also manages a BDC stated to have known Mbonu as a client and he requested for dollars in exchange for the Naira equivalent which were to be handed over to one Mr. Gbenga in Abuja.

“That Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite contacted one Hassan Dantani Abubakar, the owner of Hamma Procurement Limited, Ashrab Nigeria Limited and Insoire Solar Application to make available the dollars based on the Naira equivalent as transferred from Robert Mbonu who she had introduced via phone to Hassan Dantani.

“That on 16th December 2016, Melrose General Services transferred the sum of N246million to Hamma Procurement First Bank Accouny No. 2030756168 in exchange for the sum of $500,000 which was handed to one Mr. Gbenga in Abuja who acknowledged receipt of the same amount.

“That on the 21st Dec 2016, Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite contacted Hassan Dantani Abubakar, requesting for another transaction of $370,000. Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N181m to Inspire Solar Application. The $370,000 was handed over to one Mr. Dapo in Abuja.

“That on the 4th of January 2017, Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N248, 500,000 to Caddington Capital Limited belonging to Ms Oluyemi Braithwaite who transferred same to Hassan Dantani Abubakar’s FCMB account, Ashrab Nigeria Limited for the sum of $500,000. The dollar equivalent was handed over to Mr. Kolawole Shittu in Abuja

“That on the 10th of January 2017, Mr. Robert Mbonu through Melrose General Services Company transferred the sum of N99,820,000 to Caddington Capital Limited belonging to Ms. Oluyemi Braithwaite who transferred same to Hassan Dantani Abubakar’s FCMB Ashrab Nigeria Limited for the sum of $200,000. The dollar equivalent was handed over to one Mr. Peter in Abuja.

“That on the 19th December, there was a cash withdrawal of the sum of N50million from Melrose General Services account via cheque by Hon. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola.

“Also, the sum of $1,570,000 was received by the trio of Mr. Gbenga Peter Makanjuola, Mr. Kolawole Shittu and Mr. Oladapo Joseph Idowu at various times and locations at Abuja FCT.

“That on the 29th December, 2016, Mr. Robert Mbonu called Mrs. Kathleen Erhimu of Access Bank requesting her to source for a customer that would have the sum of $500,000 in exchange for the Naira equivalent. She introduced Mr. Robert Mbonu to Acarast Commercial Limited and Capital Field Investment to help him source for dollars.

“That on the 21st December 2016, GCA Energy Limited paid the sum of $25,000 to Asterio Energy Services Limited which subsequently transferred the sum of $23,200 to Cactus Communication Limited account with Access Bank.

“The MD of Sought-After International Synergy Limited, Julius Okedele stated that Mr. Kelechi Edomobi of Acarast Commercial Enterprises contacted him and requested to purchase dollars after the transfer of N73,950,000 to Sought-After International Synergy Limited. Mr. Edomobi gave him the account number of Cactus Communication Limited Access Bank as the nominated account to receive the dollar equivalent of the sum of $149,000.

“Investigation further confirmed that Cactus Communication Limited is owned and operated by Joseph Oladapo Idowu, an aide to Bukola Saraki.

“That Mr. Kelechi Edomobi also transferred the sum of N1m on the 15th of January, 2017, to Joseph Oladapo Idowu’s personal account number 0001679877 with Access Bank Plc.”

The Nation

Paris Club Refund: Govs In Trouble As FG Halts Payment

Governors who did not judiciously spend the first tranche of the N523 billion Paris Club refunds will not get any further release, it was learnt on Friday.

While a probe of the utilisation of the funds across the states is underway to find and penalise erring governors, it has also been discovered that the Federal Government is facing a serious cash flow problem which has also forced it to put on hold further release of the Paris Club funds to the states.

President Muhammadu Buhari is said to have ordered that until a full account of how the first tranche was spent is given, none of the states should get any further release of the funds.

In addition to the problems associated with the utilisation of the first tranche, it was learnt on Friday that the Federal Government, based on a funding advice from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has put on hold the disbursement of the second tranche.

The Ministry of Finance had, during the week, stated that the release of the next tranche of the funds, among other things, was dependent on a satisfactory utilisation of the first tranche by each of the states and availability of funds.

A presidency source told Saturday Tribune, on Friday, that states found not to have used, at least, 50 per cent of the first tranche to pay salaries and pensions of their workers and retires would not get the second tranche.

“Information at the disposal of the government shows that many of the beneficiary states did not comply with the terms and conditions attached to the previous releases. A multi-layered probe is ongoing.

“Apart from the independent monitoring of the funds being carried out by a special team in the Ministry of Finance, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is also following its own leads. It is at the end of these probes that any of these governors found clean would get the second tranche”, a source in the presidency who asked not to be named told Saturday Tribune.

Paris Club Refund: Your Governor is a Fraudster If…, By Fola Ojo

They toil day in and night out to grow the nation’s economy. Their hard work keeps the labour sector ever buoyant. But the fruits of their lips are heart-wrenching tales of travail that are still swelling and swirling around. They are the Nigerian workers.

In oversight of the arduous work they do are archons and superintendents who frequently strip them of their wages. The accused are state governors. The action or inaction from their mansions have been defined as deliberate wickedness, heartless governorship highhandedness; and dare-devil debauchery. And those caricaturing our excellencies in this fashion are mentally stable. They know what they are talking about.

The Muhammadu Buhari administration’s alleviation drive for deprived workers was first initiated July 2015. The sum of $2.1bn in fresh allocation was shared between the states and the Federal Government. The money was sourced from LNG proceeds. The relief, however, felt like a drop in a bucket. Then, last December, the first out of nine tranches from the Paris Club windfall totalling N300bn was released to states specifically. Disbursement was subject to an agreement by state governments that 50 per cent of any amount received would be earmarked for the payment of salaries and pensions. In a typical Nigerian fashion, we heard stories of diverted funds by some governors. The NGF, the umbrella group for governors, has vehemently denied the allegation. Now, Buhari has issued another directive to his Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, to set loose the second tranche any moment. It will total about N500bn.

Workers did not benefit much from the first bailout initiative. The second one, that is the first tranche of the Paris Club refund, went in the winds to “Mars”. The next proposed release is making sceptics fear that it may fly in some private jets to banks in lands far away from Nigeria; and into projects that will never benefit workers it is intended for at home. It is regrettable that as this President strives hard to bring relief to the people within his own intellectual whim, these governors are strategising about self and the next election they think is a must-win. What else can any President do?

Many states are in trouble today because some of these governors are personally irresponsible and ethically disabled. Some have stopped governing; they are gulping. The people’s money in their hands is like ice-cream in the mouth of a child. It melts fast and furious. They are profligate by political indoctrination, insensitive by nature, unlearned and never-learning. Many of them are serving with no clues about financial management.

Some states are on a financial chokehold today because the state budget-aircraft has overshot its runways. Unnecessary and irrelevant projects that directly impact lives and welfare of the people were floated. Now, they are gasping for breath. Government treasury, to some of these governors, is deemed personal savings account. With billions collected monthly from all manner of sources, their states are still comatose. The same dilapidated buildings and raggedy roads they inherited when they came aboard continue to be the testimony of abhorrence. They audaciously live like cat-walking King-Kongs amassing wealth and wives. On the flip-side, and in all fairness, among them are a few workhorses who are changing the faces of their territories. Kudos to them; and you know who they are.

We may not have hard figures because state governments shield the information; it is believed that 23 states are owing between three and 24 months’ salaries. In this rubric are oil-rich states that receive heavy chunks of cash from Abuja monthly. Workers and pensioners have died waiting for generous gestures from their governors who refuse to budge. They have been afflicted with strange illnesses because of burrowing and gnawing poverty. A visit to the doctor or filling a prescription at the pharmacy is a mission impossible. Nigeria is the giant of Africa, indeed!

Must we upbraid only Mr. Governor regarding this mess? Must we be in fear exclusively of the politician? No! If Nigeria’s economy must get healthy again, we must beg our civil servants to become truly civil. Nigerians are more afraid of some of them than they are of politicians. While the governor serves for four or eight years, the civil servant holds a desk for 35 or longer. Corruption has become a ventilator and life-sustaining medicine to a big block of Nigerian Civil Service; and disconnecting from these seems improbable. Many of our civil servants are quiet, sneaky, sleazy, crafty, cruel, and callous pathfinders who wriggle through the matrix of purloining of public funds without trace. Masters of methodical manipulation of facts and figures some of them are. They operate in the corruption corn-field like lizards that you sunder their tails and that grow longer ones.

If your fears are only lodged in the veranda of governors, you are mistaking. Nigerian civil servants make corruption happen too. They induct politicians into the hall of shame immediately they are sworn in. When the politicians design their pilferage strategies, civil servants inspect and approve of the architecture. The pension guy who stole about N32bn was a civil servant. The guys who directly deal and hurt ordinary Nigerians daily extorting bribes at the passport office, airport, seaport, checkpoints, NNPC, NIMASA, are public servants. Governors and civil servants are in creepy cahoots. There is no governor or president who can steal one kobo without the consenting or non-consenting knowledge of the civil servant. No contract is executed, for example, in the works and housing ministry without the knowledge of civil servants. They may appear unassuming and keep some low profiles, but they are devouring, killer-sharks in the murky waters of corruption. Nigeria is a profligate and wastrel of a nation brimming up with leadership chaperons so prodigal, so squandering, and so renegade. Corruption will stop in Nigeria when civil servants agree to it in spirit and in truth. We will revisit this narrative in the future.

Bailouts all over the world come with attached conditionalities. As a result of General Motors’ 2009 bankruptcy, the US government spent about $50bn to bail out the Detroit-based automaker. As conditions for government aid, the companies closed several dozen plants, paid billions of debts, adopted lower wages for new workers and slashed the number of dealerships. The companies returned to profitability in 2010 and recouped some of their lost market share. The bailout saved 1.2 million jobs and preserved $34.9bn in tax revenue. When Greek leaders agreed to a €130bn ($172bn) bailout deal for Greece 2012, it was given five conditions. Any bailout offer to states without any conditionality is an error of enormous magnitude.

The Paris Club refund will be uncorked soon. Buhari has insisted that the next tranche should be pushed towards workers’ salaries. The Ministry of Finance has also announced some conditions. But it is not just churning out conditions; it is enforcing them. This is what Nigeria lacks today. But I got an assurance from Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to Mr. President on Media and Publicity, on Thursday on the phone: “The funds have not been released. This President will ensure that states comply. The finance ministry is working out the details as we speak.”

After the release of these funds, any governor whose workers and pensioners are still starved of their remuneration rights is nothing but a fraudster who must be investigated and prosecuted appropriately.

FG to Disburse N500bn Paris Club Refund This Week

The disbursement of the N500bn London-Paris Club loan refund to states by the Federal Ministry of Finance is to commence next week, investigations have revealed.

Top government officials confided in our correspondent that the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, would meet anytime soon over the modalities for the disbursement of the funds.

The official said, “We have received the President’s directive which was issued last week and we have already started working on the release of the funds but of course you know there are processes to be followed which is what we are doing now.

“The minister will have to meet with the CBN governor to discuss the modalities for the release of the funds to the respective states and that will be done anytime from now.

“It is after that meeting that a payment mandate will be issued for the monies to be credited to the respective accounts of the state.
“All these processes usually take between two and five working days depending on the circumstances. So by this week, the states will start getting the money barring any last minute change in plans.”

It was gathered that the meeting between the governor and the finance minister was imperative in order to review the states that have met the criteria for the disbursement of the funds.

One of the criteria is that a minimum of about 50 per cent of the funds would be devoted to the payment of salaries and pension, in line with government’s plan to stimulate consumer demand.

It was also learnt that the funds would be credited to an auditable account from which payments to individual creditors would be made and that such payments would be made to Bank Verification Number-linked accounts that could be verifiable.

The Director of Information in the Federal Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salisu Dambatta, could not be reached for comments as text messages and calls sent to him were not responded to.

He, however, sent a text message that he was in a meeting when the calls became persistent.

A text message sent to him over the issue had yet to be responded to as of 4.30pm.

President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday directed that the amount be released by the finance minister to the states to enable them to meet pressing financial obligations such as the payment of salaries and pension arrears.

He said the presidential order should be carried out “appropriately and with dispatch.”

Buhari, who had earlier released the first tranche of N388bn to the state governments in December 2016, said the latest release was meant to ease their financial hardship.

The Punch

Paris Club Refund: Make Salaries Your Priority, Buhari Tells Governors

President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated to governors that paying salaties, pensions and gratuities must be their priority when they receive the second tranche of Paris loan refund.

Through a statement the president’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, Bihari said, “I will not rest until I address those issues that affect our people. One of these basic things is the issue of salaries. It is most important that workers are able to feed their families, pay rent and school fees, then other things can follow”.

He said this at the National Economic Council meeting which comprises of state governors and is chaired by the vice-president.

Buhari also apologised for barring governors from vising him in London, explaining that he wanted “government to remain here”, and not abroad.

The governors of Imo, Akwa-Ibom, Osun and Abia States thanked the President for saving the day for states through the first tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds while calling for the immediate release of the second one.

They also commended the trust the President reposed in Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, whom they said did not disappoint when he acted as President.

Governor Returns Diverted N500m Paris Debt Refund

A Nigerian state governor has returned N500million found in his account, as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission probe on the use of the N388.304billion Paris loan refund deepens.

The EFCC is probing how N19billion was illegally deducted from the London-Paris Club loan refund and how the money was shared.

The Nation reported that four persons are helping the anti-graft agency on its investigation.

The diverted money was said to be a consultant fee, but part of it found its way into the yet unnamed governor’s account.

According to the newspaper, seven governors allegedly played key roles in diverting part of the N388.304billion refund into two accounts opened by the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF).

“In spite of the protestation of some governors, the EFCC has decided to conclude the ongoing probe of the N19billion diverted from the loan refund.

“Detectives have grilled four more suspects and retrieved bank details on how funds were wired into some accounts.

“EFCC operatives traced about N500million, which was meant for a consultant, to the account of a governor. The cash has since been paid back after the discovery.

“The operatives are trying to determine whether or not the governor is also one of the consultants engaged for advisory service by the NGF.

“The details of how the refunds were diverted will soon be made public, especially those involved,” the source said.

Responding to a question, the source added: “The President is expected to get a status report from EFCC on the investigation.

The Federal Government released N388.304billion of the N522.74 billion refund to 35 states as over-deductions on the London-Paris Club loans.

States on top of the list with huge reimbursements are those controlled by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), contrary to their claims of being oppressed by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The big earners are Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta, Katsina, Kaduna, Lagos, Imo, Jigawa, Borno, Niger, Bauchi and Benue.

Only Kano State and the FCT did not benefit from the reimbursement.

The Nation