Saraki did not get Paris Club Refund – NGF

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President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki

Recent reports indicate that the President of the Senate Dr. Bukola Saraki may not have benefited from the Paris Club Loan Refund as has been alleged in media reports credited to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

According to the report, Saraki’s aides and Robert Mbonu, his associate, diverted N3.5 billion of the funds.

Mr Mbonu was a consultatnt hired by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) to calculate the excess deductions from states between 199 and 2002..

The N3.5bn was part of the N522bn loan refund disbursed to all the states of the federation in December, 2016.

However, the President of the Senate had denied the allegation with his aide also stressing that the EFCC Acting Chairman was only mudslinging because of his rejection by the Senate.

The processing of the first trench of the refund began in 2005 when Saraki was the governor of Kwara state, but the N9.1 billion that went to the state did not come until December 2016.

Kwara State government had issued a statement on March 17 stressing that Saraki did not benefit from the report.

Mr Muideen Akorede, Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Governor of Kwara state, said in a statement that the funds were well utilised by the state.

“The Kwara state government wishes to reaffirm that its share of the Paris-London Club refund from the federal government was fully utilised for infrastructure projects, MSME support and infrastructure projects as well as payment of salaries and pensions at state and local government levels,” he said.

“The public is therefore advised to disregard spurious and completely unsubstantiated claims made by a guest on a national television program on Thursday or similar assertions on any other platform to the effect that part of the state’s share of the refund was paid to a former governor of the state and current senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki or to any other party.

“It is not the state government’s practice to make payments to individuals or organisations without appropriation.”

The Nigerian Governors Forum also stressed that the funds did not go into any personal accounts adding that consultants were hired to facilitate the process.

In a statement issued by Abdulrazque Barkindo, spokesman of the NGF affirmed that the processes for the refund commenced in 2005 but was only released in 2016.

He said that the funds were released because of the desire of President Buhari to reflate the economy at a point when the states were unable to pay salaries.

“It is true that there were conditions attached to the disbursements but these arose from the collective and voluntary resolution of the governors and not any draconian order from any quarters.

“It shows that the governors themselves are responsible, sensitive and compassionate enough to understand the plight of Nigerians that they govern and therefore work in the interest of their people.

“It is important to state that in approving the repayment, due process was diligently followed and each and every approving authority, including the federal ministry of finance, the office of the accountant general of the federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the office of the auditor-general of the federation as well as the national assembly were duly informed from the beginning to the end of all the transactions. Nothing illegal was done and no monies were paid into the personal account of any governor, legislator or top officials at any of the levels and arms of government in the country.

“This brings us to the issue of consultants who facilitated the process. Indeed, a number of consultants were saddled with the task of verifying the amounts due to each of the states. These consultants were recruited by the respective states but were eventually collapsed into a consortium of only a few, even though the others who did not make it to the final group were reimbursed according to their input.

“It may interest the readers that many more consultants throughout the country are still insisting that they did work on this same Paris-London Clubs repayments since a decade ago and that they are entitled to some compensation as well.

“Many of them had actually and verifiably done some work in the past and negotiated a fee of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, with the different states that engaged them. It was therefore immoral and impossible to deny each their due, provided their input is verified and justified.

“It should be noted that if the federal government under the watch of President Buhari had found anything corrupt, illegal and unpatriotic about the payment or the utilisation of the first tranche of the Paris-London Clubs fund repayment to states, it would not have approved the payment of the second tranche to the states. After all, we all know the unimpeachable level of commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari on the issues of transparency and accountability. In any case, those writing those fictitious reports on the payment have also acknowledged that the president had insisted on the verification of the process of utilization of the first tranche before the second is approved for release. Note also most importantly at this juncture that every decision that was taken in respect of all the transactions was with the full consent and blessing of the 36 governors.

“We therefore find the insinuation in the media that monies went into the private accounts of seven unidentified governors as not only preposterous but mischievous.”

On March 16, the president directed the ministry of finance and CBN to act with dispatch in releasing the second tranche of the funds.

He wondered if the President would have directed the release of the second tranche if there were misappropriations with the first payment.

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