Paris Club Refunds: Appeal Court Okays Final Forfeiture Of N1.4bn

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The Court of Appeal Sitting in Lagos has upheld the judgement of a Federal High Court which ordered the permanent forfeiture of a sum of N1.4bn which a firm, Melrose General Services Limited obtained from the Nigeria Governors Forum through false claims.

Melrose General Services Limited is allegedly linked to the outgoing Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and two of his aides Gbenga Makanjuola and Kolawole Shittu are being prosecuted by the EFCC in a separate matter for the alleged diversion of some of the funds.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court in Lagos had on April 27, 2018, ordered the final forfeiture of the said N1.4billion to the Federal Government.

Dissatisfied with the verdict, Melrose General Services approached the appellate court and asked it to set aside the verdict of Justice Olatoregun.

But in a unanimous judgment written by Justice Tijani Abubakar, the appeal court agreed with Justice Olatoregun that the money should be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.

The judgment was read today by Justice Ebiowei Tobi and the third member of the panel was Justice Obaseki-Adejumo.

The appeal court resolved all the issues in contention in favour of the EFCC and held that Melrose’s appeal lacked merit. The company was subsequently ordered to pay N100,000 to the EFCC.

In arriving at its decision, the appeal court held that Melrose Ltd could not show that the said funds were lawfully earned by it.

It added that section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, 2006, which the EFCC relied on to seek for the forfeiture of the funds was Constitutional.

According to the Court of Appeal, Melrose was not denied fair hearing in the matter.

The EFCC through its counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, had claimed that Melrose obtained N3.5bn from the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, by making false claims.

Lawyer to the Melrose, Mr Olawale Akoni (SAN), objected and argued that his clients were not given fair hearing during the proceedings at the lower court

Apart from Melrose, the EFCC had also listed WASPS Network Ltd and Thebe Wellness Services as defendants in the forfeiture suit.

The firms were accused of impersonating a consortium of consulting firms engaged by the NGF for the verification, reconciliation and recovery of over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans on the accounts of states and local governments between 1995 and 2002.

But the EFCC insisted that the original firms engaged by the Governors Forum were GSCL Consulting and Bizplus Consulting Services Limited.‎

A top EFCC’s investigator Usman Zakari, who deposed to the affidavit for final forfeiture said that the alter ego of Melrose General Services Limited, Robert Mbonu, made a false representation to the Governors Forum, causing the forum to pay N3.5bn to his company on December 14, 2016.

States To Get N649.4bn Paris Club Refund Balance, Says Minister

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A file photo of the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

 

The Federal Government is set to disburse the sum of N649.4billion to states as their balance of the Paris Club debts refunds.

The Supervising Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, said this on Thursday, in Abuja during a quarterly press conference on the activities of the Finance Ministry.

She said the funds have been verified and refund will be made to the states in due course.

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“For the final phase of the Paris Club debt refunds, the total sum of N649.434 billion was verified by the Ministry as the outstanding balance to be refunded to the state governments.

“The payments made by the CBN as at March 2019, is N691.560billion. The increase in CBN payments partly arose from the exchange rate differential at the point of payment. Although, some states still have outstanding balances, which will be refunded, in due course.”

The Minister also disclosed that a total of N603 billion has been saved through the Federal Governments initiative on Continuous Audit between 2016 to date.

Findings from the committee have led to the conviction of some ghost workers while others are currently undergoing trials.

“The Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) has saved the Federation N603.78billion from its inception in 2016 to date. Among this figure, is the savings of N8.30 billion during Q1 2019.

“As part of this administration’s zero tolerance on corruption, PICA’s findings on ghost workers has been acted on by convicting some civil servants and also there are some that are undergoing trial on the court while others are undergoing investigation by the EFCC,” she said.

Others officials present at the media briefing include the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali; the Director-General, Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha; the Managing Director, Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria, and other officials of the ministry of finance.

FG Has Disbursed $5.4bn Of Paris Club Refund To States – Finance Minister

FG, States, LGs Share N648.71bn For September
Zainab Ahmed

 

A total amount of $5.4billion Paris Club Refund has so far been disbursed to states by the Federal Government.

The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja while highlighting steps taken by the Federal Government to increase revenue generation in 2019.

According to her, the Federal Government has taken steps on debts repayment, as a total of $5.4 billion has been paid for the Paris club refund, $1.9 billion as export expansion grant and $6.8billion payment for cash call obligation.

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The $5.4billion paid as settlement of the Paris Club Refund, when converted based on the N305 per dollar official exchange rate of the Central Bank of Nigeria is about N1.65trillion.

The Paris Club Refund was released to states in phases based on some conditions.

The Minister added that the steps by the Federal Government to improve the economy in 2019 will include the introduction of a national single window trading platform for the Nigerian customs service and automation of revenue collection processes. This she said is expected to increase revenue by over 90 percent.

Ekiti Govt Receives N3.9bn Paris Club Refund, Pays Salary Arrears

Ekiti Govt Receives N3.9bn Paris Club Refund, Pays Salary Arrears
Governor Kayode Fayemi (file)

 

The Ekiti State government has received N3.9 billion from the Federal Government as the last tranche of its Paris Club refund.

Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Yinka Oyebode, revealed this in a statement on Thursday.

He added that N3.3billion was also deducted and paid as outstanding 2016- 2018 counterpart fund for Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) being owed by the state, as directed by the President.

Upon receiving the refund on Thursday, Oyebode disclosed that Governor Kayode Fayemi had consequently directed that the N3.9billion Paris Club refund be applied to pay one month of outstanding arrears to state and local government workers, teachers, and pensioners.

He explained that this was in line with the governor’s promise to workers and people of the state, noting that it would be done with augmentation from internal savings.

According to the statement, the Paris Club refund was received following President Muhammadu Buhari’s intervention in the matter, after Governor Fayemi’s visit to the President last week.

“Governor Fayemi expressed appreciation to the President for the timely intervention, having assured workers in the state that his administration would explore all avenues to clear the five to eight months’ salary arrears owed workers in the state by the immediate past administration, within a reasonable period,” the statement said.

“Dr Fayemi, had while fielding questions during the monthly “Meet Your Governor” programme on television and radio last week re-assured workers that he was yet to receive the Paris Club refund, adding that he would make it public once the state received the payment.”

Oyebode claimed that the immediate past administration of Mr Ayodele Fayose had received a total of N18.34 billion Paris Club refund in three tranches between December 2016 and December 2017, in addition to bailout funds, budget support funds and excess crude support, all totalling about N55 billion.

He accused the former administration of failing to utilise such on salary being owed workers and retirees.

However, the former governor has yet to counter the allegations.

The first tranche of the Paris Club refund totalling N8.87 billion, according to Fayemi’s aide, was received in December 2016 while the state also got N4.77 billion in July 2017 and another N4.7billion in December 2017.

He insisted that Governor Fayemi has assured workers in the state that his administration would not owe them salaries.

Oyebode added that the governor promised to clear outstanding salaries for all categories of workers within one year.

Paris Club Refund: Ogun Govt Earmarks N11.8bn For Workers’ Welfare

Ogun Govt Partners ECOWAS Commission, UNIDO On Economic Zone
Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun (file)

 

The Ogun State government says it has commenced the disbursement of 65 per cent of the last tranche of the Paris Club Refund to pay backlogs of cooperative deductions, gratuity, severance and furniture allowance of its workforce.

Commissioner for Finance in the state, Mr Adewale Oshinowo, explained in a statement on Tuesday that this was 15 per cent above the threshold set by the Federal Government on the disbursement of refund to workers.

He disclosed that the state government received the sum of N17.3 billion from the Federal Government, being its last tranche of the Paris Club Refund.

“In line with the commitment of the Ibikunle Amosun administration to the welfare of workers in the state, their payment is being made a priority,” Oshinowo said.

“Therefore, with immediate effect, the sum of N11.8 billion from the refund will be expended on the workforce, including the local government while the balance of N5.5 billion will go into social services for the benefit of the entire indigenes of the state.”

The commissioner recalled that the state government had pledged to offset the entitlements of workers and also scale up the infrastructural development of the state during a town hall meeting held recently in the state.

He stressed that development was a fulfilment of the promise made to stakeholders across the 236 wards of the state.

Oshinowo added, “The Ibikunle Amosun-led administration places a high premium on the welfare of its worker. This informed its decision to increase the salaries of workers in 2012, which doubled the monthly wage bill.”

“It is also a testament that this government pays the highest salaries in the entire federation and has consistently paid workers’ salaries as due and when due,” he noted.

“This latest payment will no doubt boost the morale of the public service workforce and enhance its productivity.”

The commissioner, who described the civil service as the engine room of government, promised that the state government would clear all other arrears once the finances of the state returned on an even keel.

Ortom Reacts As FG Recalls Paris Club Refund Paid To Benue

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom

 

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, has reacted to the Federal Government’s alleged decision to recall the Paris Club Refund paid to the state.

He called on the people of the state to remain calm as he expressed shock and hoped the decision will be reversed.

A statement by the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Terver Akase, described the news as demoralising.

“Following the Governor’s directive to the state Ministry of Finance, payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities was set to commence today, only for the people to wake up with the demoralizing news of Federal Government’s recall of the funds from the state’s accounts.

“We hope this latest move is not part of the ongoing witchhunt of the state. Benue people have already suffered enough impunity and attacks.

“We also hope that the withdrawal order was made in error because the said funds are not grants from the Federal Government.

“This was a refund of funds the Federal Government has been owing Benue over the years, so they shouldn’t make it look as though they had given the state a loan or a grant”, the statement added.

Governor Ortom gave the assurance that the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) will meet on Tuesday and an official position will be taken on the matter.

Bayelsa Govt Orders Payment Of Salaries After Receiving Paris Club Refund

Bayelsa Governor Dickson Loses Mother
Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson (file)

 

The Bayelsa State Government has ordered the payment of outstanding salaries and pensions after receiving the Paris Club Refund from the Federal Government.

The governor gave the directive on Monday through the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Markson Iworiso-Markson.

He explained that the payment is for two out of the outstanding three months salary arrears to workers and four out of seven months pension arrears in the state.

He disclosed that the state government got N21.94 billion while the Local Governments received N2.22 billion.

Iworiso-Markson said that the state government decided to make the Paris Club Debt public in consonance with the prevailing policy of transparency and accountability for which administration is reputed.

According to him, the government would commit N8 billion of the total receipts to the payment of outstanding salary arrears and pension.
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Bayelsa Govt Receives N24.16bn Paris Club Refund

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The Bayelsa State Government has received the sum of N24.16 billion from the Paris Club Refund.

The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Markson Iworiso-Markson disclosed this in a statement on Monday.

He said that the State Governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, has directed the immediate payment of two out of the outstanding three months salary arrears to workers and four out of seven months pension arrears in the state.

Iworiso-Markson described the recent N800 billion debt claim by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr Heineken Lokpobiri, as disgraceful and unexpected of a person occupying his exalted position.

He said, “It was queer and indeed sad that a Minister could quote wild debt figures with the intent to mislead the public and discredit the government”.

The commissioner said that while the state government got N21.94 billion, the Local Governments received N2.22 billion.

He stressed that the state government decided to make the Paris Club Debt public in consonance with the prevailing policy of transparency and accountability for which administration is reputed.

He explained that the government would commit N8 billion of the total receipts to the payment of outstanding salary arrears and pension.

On the issue of the N800 billion debt claim by Lokobiri, Iworiso-Markson, said that the unsubstantiated figure was inconceivable as it conflicted with the authoritative figure from the Debt Management Office which put the state debt portfolio at N123 billion.

The commissioner challenged Lokpobiri to inform Bayelsans of the number of projects he had attracted to the state as a minister whose party was in control of government at the national level.

He said, “The Debt Management Office, (a federal Institution) in its June 2018 report stated that the debt portfolio of the state was N123 billion. This figure includes contingent liabilities which included contract payments and pension obligations.

“While the government is making every effort to achieve massive developmental strides in every area, government wish to condemn the unguarded statements of some highly placed individuals.

“The recent unsubstantiated statement of the Minister of State for Agriculture saying the state is owing N800 billion is disappointing.

The Commissioner recalled the recent rating by BudgiT, a budget transparency advocacy group sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which placed Bayelsa among one of the three most fiscally stable states in Nigeria.

He stressed that the BudgiT rating was a confirmation of the responsiveness of the state government and its efforts and policies in promoting transparency, accountability and prudent utilisation of the scarce resources of the state in spite of its low Internally Generated Revenue.

Ortom Confirms Receipt Of N14.9bn Paris Club Refund

Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom

 

The Benue State Government has received N14.9 billion, its final tranche of the Paris Club refund from the Federal Government.

Governor Samuel Ortom confirmed the receipt of the fund, according to a statement issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, on Thursday.

The governor says 80% of the funds will be used for payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities.

To that effect, a committee headed by the Deputy Governor, Engineer Benson Abounu, has been set up to work out modalities for immediate disbursement of the funds.

Also on the committee are the Head of Service, Finance Commissioner, Adviser on Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Adviser on Labour Matters, Chairmen of Nigerian Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress and Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Benue State chapters.

“The decision of Governor Ortom to involve key stakeholders in the disbursement of the Paris Club refund is in line with his policy of transparency and accountability,” Akase said.

The state had initially received N12.7 billion as the first tranche and subsequently N6.4 billion of the Paris Club refund.

Paris Club Refund: FG Insists States Must Pay Salaries Before Accessing Balance

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Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun (file photo)

 

The Federal Government has said that states must pay outstanding salaries to workers before they can receive their balance of the Paris Club Refund.

The Federal Ministry of Finance said this in a statement on Tuesday while listing other conditions for the collection of the remaining funds.

It said, “The final approval of US$2.689 billion is subject to the following conditions:

“Salary and staff related arrears must be paid as a priority; Commitment to the commencement of the repayment of Budget Support Loans granted in 2016, to be made by all States; Clearing of amounts due to the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative”.

The Ministry further asked the states to “clear matching grants from the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC)”.

It said some states have available funds which could be used to improve primary education and learning outcomes.

Issues of over-deduction of the Paris Club loan had caused a long-standing dispute between the Federal Government and the State Governments, dating as far back as 1995.

But in 2016 the President directed that the claims of over-deduction be formally and individually reconciled by the Debt Management Office (DMO) – a process which commenced in November that year.

As an interim measure to alleviate the financial challenges of the states during the 2016 recession, the President approved that 50% of the amounts claimed by states be paid, to enable them clear salary and pension arrears.

The funds were then released between December 1, 2016 and September 29, 2017.

However, the ministry says full payments will only be made after the aforementioned conditions are met and that the Federal Government would make the payment in phases.

Senate To Probe Paris Club Refund, Questions $5.5 Billion External Loan 

Lawmakers in the Senate have expressed worry about why state governments that have benefitted from the Paris Club refund and have continued to owe workers’ salaries.

They have therefore resolved to probe the proceeds of the refund released so far to states by president Muhammadu Buhari.

Last week, the Federal Government released details of the second tranche of Paris Club refund to states, totalling N243. 795 billion.

READ ALSO: Delta Pensioners Protest, Accuse Govt Of Misusing Paris Club Refund

The Chairman Senate Committee on Local and Foreign loans, Senator Shehu Sani also demanded to know why revenues from local sources cannot be used to fund the 2017 budget.

He raised the question during a meeting with officials of the Ministry of Finance to discuss President Buhari’s request for external borrowing of $5.5 billion

‘Ondo Govt’ll Use 75% Of Paris Club Refund For Salaries’

Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu,
Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu

The Ondo State government has revealed some details about how it will use the Paris Club refund it received from the Federal Government.

The state Head of Service, Toyin Akinkuotu, said 75 percent of the Paris Club refund will be used to pay salaries.

Akinkuotu, who made this known in a statement signed by his Press Officer Oluwatope Akinjide, vowed that the government will not use the money for any other purpose.

He said, “Nobody will spend one kobo of what accrues to payment of salaries in the Paris Club refund. Guidelines that followed the release of the money to the states stated that 75 percent of the fund will be used for payment of salaries and 25 percent for other exigencies of government.”

The statement, however, said the present administration in Ondo State has not received payment from the ecological fund and repayment from the Federal Government on road maintenance.

Stressing that the present administration holds public servants in high esteem, the Head of Service said the remaining 25 percent of the money as approved by the guidelines from the Federal Government will be used for other exigencies of the government which he said are many.

According to him, the government has made a proposal to the labour union on the payment of salaries to categories of workers since the money cannot cover all the salaries of workers.

Akinkuotu added that the net payment of the Paris Club refund to Ondo State after deductions from the source is less than N7bn and that a percentage goes to the local governments.

What is left, he said, is not enough to pay the one-month salaries of all categories of workers in the state.