By Boniface Enekwechi
CONCERNS are being raised that President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for the payment of consultancy fees/judgment debts to contractors and lawyers as they relate to the $350Miilion Paris/London Club refund for states and local governments may be under threat based on the moves by the Nigeria Governors Forum to sway the office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to unblock some suspicious accounts where the remaining $100M for the settlement of the contractors and consultants have been traced.
It is public knowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari has never minced words in reprimanding top government officials on the need to always adhere strictly to his anti-corruption war, yet there are tell-tale signs that some officials flout his directives. To successfully win the war against graft in Nigeria it is important that all stakeholders and indeed all Nigerians join Mr. President in the crusade to eradicate corruption.
The president had in his wisdom and based on wise counsel by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN and the Minister of Finance approved the payment of consultancy/legal fees to contractors who carried out some projects in local governments across Nigeria in partnership with the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON.
It must be noted that the Attorney General had diligently discharged his responsibility by making necessary recommendations to the president, and this necessitated his directive to the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the money directly into the bank account of the Nigeria Governors Forum.
Now the question is – has the directive been carried out by the Central Bank? If the directive has been flouted, then it is in breach of the president’s directive on the utilisation of the fund as recommended by the Attorney General in his memorandum to Mr. President. Additionally, there is need to sanction anyone who deliberately flouts the directive of Mr. President or the Attorney General in respect of paying the consultancy fees/judgment debts on the Paris/London Club Refund for local governments. It is pertinent to note that the Attorney General had received the approval of Mr. President to supervise the payments.
It is expected that every decent society should always live up to its lawful obligations and the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has made adherence to rule of law and due process its focal point. In this regard, there is need to acknowledge the professionalism and good judgment of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami SAN for authorising payment for two out of the five creditors, yet it is imperative that he goes the whole hog to ensure that the outstanding payment obligation to the remaining contractors/consultants is not jeopardised in any way.
Already there is rumour making the rounds that the $100Million have been deposited in various private companies and individual bank accounts. Definitely if this is proven to be true, then the necessary sanctions should be applied to serve as a lesson for others. A situation where the attorney general’s directive as instructed by the president and Commander- in- Chief is flouted without justification must not be tolerated.
It must be put on record that President Buhari is gradually restoring Nigeria to the path of moral rectitude and it behoves all Nigerians to support him, rather than put cogs in the wheel of progress. Similarly, the Nigeria Governors Forum must be seen to adhere to the directives of constituted authority and stop working at cross purposes with the policies of the Buhari administration on anti-corruption.
It will amount to a travesty of justice if the Nigerian Governors Forum or anyone for that matter choose to undermine the directive of Mr. President conveyed through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice especially as it relates to the payment of contractors and consultants for the ALGON/Local Governments projects.
On his part, the Attorney General should immediately take all necessary steps to ensure that Mr. President’s directive is fully complied with. This he can do by stopping the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from unblocking the bank accounts where the $100Million meant for the payment of outstanding debt obligations to the contractors and consultants have been traced.
It must be stated for the umpteenth time that corruption has dealt a debilitating blow to the progress and development of Nigeria, and all hands must now be on deck to ensure that the good work President Buhari has started does not come to nought through the nefarious activities of some unscrupulous individuals and organisations.
Enekwechi, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.