Governors of Nigeria’s thirty-six states have described the issuance of promissory notes in favour of judgment creditors relating to Paris and London Club refunds by the country’s Minister of Finance Zainab Ahmed – despite pending court cases – as the height of corruption and lawlessness.
The Governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) said they are amazed that despite being served court processes as well as a hearing notice, the minister directed the debt management office (DMO) to issue promissory notes to contractors and consultants, whose claims are still being challenged and contested in court.
In a letter dated August 30 and addressed to the minister, the NGF, through their lawyer, Femi Falana, said the minister ought to have stayed the execution of judgment connected with payments of legal and consultancy fees arising from London Club Debt Buy Back and London Club Debt Exit Payment, which is the fulcrum of the judgment of the federal high court, Abuja in suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/130/13 – Linas International Limited & ORS V. the federal government of NIGERIA & ORS.
“Your office was duly served with court processes seeking for stay of execution of, and/or injunction restraining you and others from giving effect to, activating, enforcing and/or further enforcing the judgments of the trial courts pending the determination of our appeals,” the letter read.
“Specifically, your office has been served with a hearing notice fixing one of the motions for hearing before the federal high court on 29th of September, 2021.
“We are amazed to note that despite the service of these processes as well as hearing notice on your office, your permanent secretary acting under your instruction, directed the debt management office (DMO) to issue promissory notes to contractors and consultants, whose claims are still being challenged and contested in court.
“As you already know, these promissory notes your office is directing the debt management office to issue to these contractors and consultants are to be deducted over a period of ten (10) years from statutory allocations due to the states of the federation.”
Falana further stated that “it is not only curious but an action in bad taste for your office” that the directive was issued by the minister adding that “It is the height of corruption and lawlessness”.
“We need to inform you of your sacred duty of staying action on this matter in view of the injunctive reliefs sought in the processes duly filed in court on these matters,” he said.
“It is the law that once an application for injunctive reliefs (such as the one filed by us and already fixed for hearing) is pending in a court of law, parties are barred from engaging in any act that would foist a fiat accompli on the court in respect of that application or action.
“While extending the assurances of our highest regard, we hope you would be guided by the admonition of our highest court as quoted above by withdrawing your directive to the debt management office to issue promissory notes to any contractor and consultant pending the determination of court processes in respect of which your office has been served and notified of their hearing dates.”
The Kayode Fayemi-led Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) had in 2019 asked for a review of the indebtedness, calling for a forensic audit into the agreements leading to the court judgments.
That also led to the NGF engaging human rights lawyer Falana to challenge the judgments awarding some consultants and contractors shares of the Paris and London Club refunds received from the federal government by the various states and their local governments.
Reports suggest President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, the Attorney-General of the federation, Abubakar Malami, and the finance minister are pushing the payment to six creditors through the issuance of promissory notes to be funded from state governments’ allocations for 10 years.
By Abel Ejikeme