Former Director-General of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Earl Osaro Onaiwu, who spoke to Vanguard on the matter, asserted: “I was the Director-General of the Governors’ Forum, so I am in a better position to know what transpired at that time. Prince (Hon). Ned Nwoko is the originator of the Paris Club refund. That money was lying down there dormant and nobody went for it.“If not for Ned Nwoko who went to court in London and got judgment in his favour and he also got judgment in his favour against the Federal Government, nobody did. It was the judgment against the Federal government that made the government to start the refunding of the loans.
So, if the current leadership of ALGON are claiming not to know about the roles played by Prince Ned Nwoko on the Paris Club deal, they should asked questions. That is all I can say for now.”
Where were dissenting ALGON officials when Nwoko fought the battle, asks Uduaghan
Former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who spoke to Vanguard on phone, said: “What I know is that Prince Ned Nwoko was the brain behind the Paris Club refund to states and local governments. It is one of the businesses he is very adept in.
“Where were the ALGON people or local government people who are talking when he started the process of the refund? Ned has always been involved with the Paris Club, how will ALGON know, were they involved? Do they know how the refund they got even came about?
“Some of them were not even in politics when the battle was fought and won by Prince Ned Nwoko, so they do not know what happened. They should ask questions, that is what I can say for now.”
ALGON IMC should acquaint themselves with facts— Irechukwu, ex-Imo commissioner
A former Commissioner for Finance in Imo State, Mr. George Irechukwu, who was miffed at the ignorance of some ALGON officials on the transaction said: “They (ALGON) engaged Linas International Limited and wrote a no objection to Federal Ministry of Finance to pay. The ALGON IMC members should be advised to educate and update themselves. I rest my case and wish you well in your work.”
States, LGAs didn’t fund recovery, we did – Linas International Limited
The team of lawyers, J. K Gazadma, SAN; Ken Njemanze, SAN; Joe Agi, SAN; Jeff Njikonye, SAN; Onyeka Nwokolo Esq. and Tim Odaah Esq. who handled the matter for Linas International Limited and Ned Nwoko in a statement made available to Vanguard, said: “The refunds provided huge relief for all the states and local governments.
“This windfall was facilitated by the consultancy work of Linas International Limited which initiated the forensic audit and accounting review process that discovered over deductions and excess charges debited to the account of these tiers of government over time and accelerated with the exit of Nigeria from the London and Paris Club of lenders during the President Olusegun Obasanjo regime.
“The consultancy was on a contingency basis where the payment to Linas International Limited was dependent on the success and actual funds recovered no matter what costs were incurred.
“The consultancy presented huge risks as no funds were committed by the beneficiaries – states and local governments. No state or local governments funded the huge costs involved. Some states and local governments were in fact skeptical about the chances of success.
FG initially resisted payment
“After the above discoveries the Federal Government resisted refunding the funds it unconstitutionally utilised resulting in various law suits in Nigeria. Several senior Nigerian lawyers, accountants and other professionals were engaged by Linas to enforce the rights of the beneficiaries to the excess charges and over deductions.
“Judgments were awarded in favour of Linas International Limited and the local governments against the Federal Government. There are still outstanding professional fees owed to the professionals whose professional exertions facilitated the refunds which the states and local governments enjoyed.
So far, states, LGAs have collected $13 bn refunds
“After initial reluctance the Federal Government commenced compliance with judgement of the court. The Federal Government has fully refunded the states and local governments to the tune of US$13billion. During the refunds the Federal Government made partial provisions for the payment of consultancy fees.
“It secured letters of no objection and letters of indemnity from the state governments. The local governments issued letters confirming the entitlement of Linas International Limited to the payment of its consultancy fees.”
Dubious loans unearthed
Inquiries by Vanguard showed there was no new settlement as Linas and Ned Nwoko already have Federal High Court judgments, including decree absolute up to Supreme Court on behalf of the 774 local governments for the sum of $3.2bn and consent judgments with the states through the Governors Forum.
It was through the same court judgment that the Federal Government was ordered to refund $12bn to states and local governments.
Both states and local governments received the refunds of over $12bn from the Federal Government over time. In fact, the Governors Forum gave guarantee to the Federal Government that they would pay Linas and Nwoko’s fees whenever it became necessary, but Federal Government which was supposed to deduct and pay the consultancy fees at source went along to disburse the refunds without deducting same.
It was also discovered that members of the controversial ALGON IMC, who are interrogating the treaty were not in office when Linas and Nwoko executed the contracts and refunds made to local government areas.
Besides some ALGON officials who confessed that they were uninformed about the business deal did not deny that the councils benefited immensely from the court judgment, which Nwoko and his company secured and also relying on to get their consultancy fees, which is 20 per cent of the total recovered funds.
It was found that in the course of the recovery of the funds by Nwoko’s international legal firm, which had some countries in Africa to verify foreign loans and process of repayment, some government officials instigated EFCC against Ned and his company and built walls making it impossible for Linas to obtain the required data, vital documents needed for forensic evidence to support the recovery.
Disturbingly, some states that were not in existence when the foreign loans were contracted suddenly found themselves making repayments for loans that they did not contract.
The 774 local governments that never contracted any foreign loan were grouped into the repayment but during investigation, an informed official hinted: “Ned and this team found that some of the loans were of dubious origin, the old Gongola State was listed as having contracted $100million as foreign loan from an Austrian bank to build an international hotel. However, in the process of our investigation, the bank wrote to say that it had no business relation in Africa, let alone in Nigeria.”
Buhari ordered payment after verifying particulars in 2018
When President Muhammadu Buhari first approved the payment of the accruing fees to the consultants after his attention was drawn to the court judgment in June, 2018, he issued a presidential directive, which was not complied with as the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, at the time directed the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, OAGF, to withhold payment to the consultants. Nwoko had dragged NGF to court in 2017 when he noticed that it was foot-dragging.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a legal view dated July 11, 2018 (in reaction to a request by then Chief of Staff to the President for legal opinion) and another letter dated August 18, 2018 (in response to the request for legal opinion by Minister of Finance) unequivocally acknowledged some third party claimants entitled to be paid various amounts as consultancy/legal fees for the services they rendered to states and local governments in relation to the Paris Club refund.
In the letter titled: “Legal opinion on third party claims,” Malami identified one of the consultants as Ned Munir Nwoko, who sued the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, and seven others in suit: FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017 and claimed that he was engaged by NGF to provide legal/consultancy services on the Paris Club refund.
Malami said the parties to the suit, including Nwoko and the NGF, entered a consent judgment on May 9, 2017 “to the effect that Hon. Nwoko is entitled to be paid a negotiated percentage on every refund made by the Federal Government to the states. Hon. Ned Munir Nwodo, covered under paragraph five of my letter dated July 11, 2018 has stated that, in view of the unwillingness of the NGF to negotiate and pay him his full entitlement in line with the consent judgment, he is reverting to his initial claim of $71,936,881.36.
“He is, therefore, seeking for the payment of the sum of $68,658,192.83 as outstanding sum due to him from NGF. The EFCC investigation report, dated 1st August 2018 equally confirmed that the judgment creditor (Nwoko) was engaged by 14 states to recover excess deduction with respect to the Paris and London Club debts,” Malami said.