The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami said Thursday that the $418 million deduction from the Paris Club refund was paid to consultants at the behest of the governors of the 36 states of the federation.
Fielding questions from State House correspondents at the weekly media briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team in Abuja, the minister said the payment was even indemnified by the governors.
He said the Office of the Attorney General and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had not incurred any major judgment debt in the last seven years.
“On the issue of Paris club that is raised. You mentioned that there exists a presidential directives that payments should not be made and then in breach of that position directives payments were perhaps maybe arising from the conspiracy between the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice payments have been made.
“I think you need to be informed first, as to the antecedents, prevailing circumstances and how the liability arose but one thing I’m happy to state, which I want to reiterate having stated same earlier, is the fact that the Office of the Attorney General and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has not indeed incurred any major judgment debt for the period of seven years it has been on.
“Now, coming to the antecedents background of the Paris Club. The liability or judgement debts related to pirates Club was indeed a liability created by the governor’s forum in their own right.
“How do I mean? The Governor’s forum comprising of all the governors sat down commonly agreed on the engagement of consultant to provide certain services for them relating to the recovery of the Paris Club. So, it was the governor’s forum under the federal government in the first place that engaged the consultant.
“Two, when eventually, successes were recorded associated with the refund, associated with Paris Club, the governors collectively and individually presented a request to the federal government for the fund.
“And among the components of the claim presented for the consideration of the federal government was a component related to the payment of these consultants that are now constituting the subject of contention. So the implication of that is that the governors in their own right recognized the consultant, recognized their claim and presented such claim to the federal government.
“Three, when the claims were eventually processed and paid to the governor’s forum. They indeed on their own, without the intervention of the federal government took steps to make part payments to the consultants, acknowledging their liability over same.
“And then four, when eventually they made such payments at a point they took a decision to stop the payment. The consultants instituted is an action in court against the governors forum. Ans what happened in court?
“They submitted to consent judgment. They asked and urged the Court to allow them settle out of court. The court granted them an opportunity to settle. They commit terms of settlement in writing, they signed the terms of settlement, agreeing and conceding that such payments be made to the consultant.
“And then five, thereafter, the federal government under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari was requested to comply with the judgment and effect payment. The President passed all the requests of the governors to the Office of the Attorney General for consideration. I suggested to the President on the face value of the judgment and the undertones associated with the consultancy services. It was my opinion, the same treatment we metted to P&ID, that let us subject this claim, the consent judgment to investigation by the agencies of the government. Mr. President approved, I directed the EFCC and DSS to look into these claims and report back to the office of the Attorney General.
“And these agencies reported and concluded that there are no problem undertone associated with it. The government may continue to sanction the payment dependent. Now, that was the background.
“Even at that, we took further steps after receiving these reports from the EFCC among others, to demand for indemnity from the governors. You, as a forum, you incurred this liability, as a forum you submitted to consent judgment. We have subjected this claims to investigation and we have a report, but even at that, we need independent indemnity from you, establishing that it is with your consent and understanding that these payments should be made, in writing.
“And I’m happy to report to you that the governors individually and collectively provided the desired indemnity to the Office of the Attorney General, conceding, agreeing and submitting, that the payment should be made.
“Yes, and that was the ground and the basis on which we eventually took a decision by advising the president that the payment should be made.
“And then along the line, there was a change of leadership of the governors forum. And all the noise making that is now being generated arising from the Governors forum is not only unjustified, but indeed, a clear case of absence of defence,” he said.