$2.6billion: Governors face probe

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is considering the probe of some state governors for allegedly diverting fees meant for payment to consultants who assisted states on the London-Paris Club loan refund.

Some states may not be able to access the last tranche of refund of about $2,689,279,365 unless they allow the federal government to deduct the consultants’ fees at source.

The consultants are insisting on the payment of their $350million before the $2.6billion is released to states.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that while the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) offered to pay its consultants about two per cent for services, most states promised their consultants between five to 10 per cent.

The NGF had hired Biz Plus Limited and GSL Consulting Limited as its consultants

Some governors that did not hire consultants are now alleged to have collected consultancy fess between five and 10 percent for themselves.

President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of N522.74 billion (first tranche) refund to states pending reconciliation of records following protests by states against over deductions for external debt service between 1995 and 2002.

Each state was entitled to N14.5 billion or 25% of the amount claimed.

The second tranche of N243.79billion was released in December 2017.

The release of the cash was trailed by a huge controversy, including payment of N19billion consultancy fees and $86million into the accounts of the NGF.

The EFCC in the last two and a half years had been investigating the alleged diversion of the N19billion under the guise of consultancy fees.

About $183,000 out of the N3.5billion was transferred to a jewellery firm in Dubai bring patronized by some ranking Senators.

About four suspects are already facing trial for alleged conversion of N3.5billion out of N19billion London-Paris Club refund to states.

But investigation revealed that many governors and past governors are in trouble over the refund.

Findings revealed that most governors have not paid the consultants they engaged to trace their loan records, repayment and their states’ share of refund.

A reliable source, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are still investigating the London-Paris Club refund because there had been issues on the cash. Some governors have diverted the refund and deducted consultancy fees without paying consultants.

“Most governors have reneged on the agreement to pay the consultants engaged by their states.

“While the NGF offered to pay consultants about two per cent, some states negotiated five to 10% with their consultants. Yet these governors have deducted the consultancy fees from the refunds made to their states without paying the consultants.

“There is a case of state which got over N11billion. The governor of the affected state violated the agreement and paid only a pittance of N15million to the consultants.

“Some state governors did not engage consultants but they paid consultancy fees to themselves through their cronies.

“So far, about $350million is the accumulated consultancy fees. Despite the approval by the presidency NGF does not want $350million released to consultants at all.”

The source said: “One of the governors who diverted N500million out of the London-Paris Club refund was uncovered and he has lost the cash to the Federal Government.

“We have more instances. Some former governors, who had nothing to do with the refund, brought in consultants in order to benefit from the exercise.”

A government source said: “The position of the presidency is that the $350million out of about $2,689,279,365 final tranche of London-Paris Club refund should be paid to the consultants.

“In fact the presidency directed that the consultancy fees should be deducted and remitted into a dedicated in CBN.

“The governors are opposed to deduction from source. They said since the cash belongs to states, the presidency should leave governors to relate with their consultants. They also claimed that the presidency was never part of any agreement between states and consultants.”

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