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33 States May Not Pay Salaries As N172bn Deduction Grounds Revenue Disbursement

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Payment of salaries by about 33 states of the federation is uncertain as the decision of the federal government to debit local government accounts in commencement of a payment of $418 million (N172 billion) to private consultants on Paris Cub refund has pitched states and local governments against it (FG).

BudgIT, a civic group committed to government financial transparency, in its report, ‘State of States 2019’, said only three Nigerian state governments (Lagos, Rivers and Akwa Ibom) can finance their recurrent expenditure without allocation from the federal government.

There had been pressure from the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and the general public to stop the suspicious payments to the consultants.

However, in a dramatic twist, less than a month after a directive by President Muhammadu Buhari,, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has commenced deductions to pay the claimants.

The permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, told the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting on Friday that it has commenced the deductions to pay the consultants.

This information has irked the states which then refused to consider the revenue for the month of October 2021 until the FG comes clean with the deductions.

The Paris Club payments

In 2006, the federal government paid $12 billion to get an $18 billion debt write-off by the Paris Club of international creditors.

However, because the payment was made directly from the revenue accruing to the entire federation, states and LGAs that did not owe the Paris Club asked the federal government for a refund.

Some consultants had surfaced along the line to claim a percentage of the refunds as payment for their purported services to the states and LGAs.

Some contractors also claimed they were asked to execute projects across the country by the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).

Questions were, however, asked on why states would need consultants to negotiate with the federal government over the refund, while the projects said to have been awarded by ALGON turned out to be mostly non-existent.

The governors had asked for a forensic audit.

While the contractors and consultants went to court, the Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, negotiated an out-of-court settlement with them and agreed to pay $418 million as judgment debt.

Meanwhile, despite opposition by the governors and activists, President Buhari went ahead to approve the payments.

Governors cautioned bank CEOs against payment

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had asked banks and their compliance officers to disregard the payment of the controversial $418,953,670.59 to consultants.

In a fresh letter dated September 3, signed by P. H. Ogbole, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), the governors reiterated that the promissory notes should be disregarded.

The letter was addressed to the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), the finance minister, the director-general of the Debt Management Office and MDs/CEOs/compliance officers of all commercial banks in the country.

“The issuance of promissory notes of a humongous sum of over $418 million to private persons for alleged consultancy work demands not only caution but strict due diligence; particularly when the judgements which gave rise to the payments sought to be enforced are the subject of pending litigation.

“Matters that are sub judice must not be acted upon in a manner that will foist a situation of complete helplessness on the courts and render their decisions nugatory.

“This caveat is therefore issued as a further notice to the honourable minister of finance and the director-general, Debt Management Office to act in the interest of the public and refrain from foisting on the nation another case of P&ID in which but for due diligence, the nation would have been fleeced of billions of dollars.

Forum for Commissioners of Finance protest

A terse statement signed by Mr. David Olofu, chairman, Forum for Commissioners of Finance of Nigeria said the debit happened without notification of all concerned.

The statement indicated that “members declined approval after consideration of the reports for the disbursement of the available revenue because of deduction on funds belonging to the Local Government Councils in favour of some consultants for a $418 million judgment debt for consultancy services with respect to Paris Club Loans refund.”

It said: “Based on available information, the deduction will continue for 10 years (120 months). This is contrary to the provisions of Section 162 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended.”

Mr. Olofu also noted that “the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) had objected to the execution of this judgment until full determination of ongoing litigation on the subject matter.”

He disclosed that the “Commissioners for Finance representing states and local government councils do not have prior knowledge of the deduction and coming at a time when states and LGCs are in dire straits will further worsen the fiscal position of these tiers of government.”

He added that “consequent upon these, the meeting was adjourned to allow for further consultations and resolution of all the issues that had been previously raised by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) regarding the assignment that gave rise to the claim and the judgment.”

Expert say FG is acting in contempt

Commenting, Barr Eze Onyekpere, the Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), said the federal government is acting in contempt of the court and disrespecting the rule of law.

The federal government is disrespectful of the rule of law. That’s not the way to go. If the FG has gone ahead to overreach the court, that means the FG isn’t waiting for the court to reach a decision,” he said.

He said, “That means as far as the federal government is concerned, the court case is immaterial. They don’t care about the judiciary. It’s improper,” he said.

He noted that “the states should insist that their matter be heard and bring it to the court that the federal government is in contempt of the court.” He also noted that “the minister or whosoever is in charge is acting in contempt of the powers of the court.”

“This is a dictatorship and it’s being executed by those in the corridors of power. This is totally unacceptable” he stated.

Barr Onyekpere also said the stalemate will impact the states’ capacity to pay their bills.

“It will impact the states. They are living on a shoestring budget. They don’t have the revenue to do their work. So the states should insist either amicably or through the judiciary. They shouldn’t accept whatever is shoved down their throats simply because the federal government is holding the money,” he said.

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Breaking: Buhari Fails to Sign, Sends Electoral Bill to INEC, Attorney-General for Legal Opinion

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President Muhammadu Buhari has sent the new Electoral Act Amendment Bill to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for legal advice, FidelinfoNews has learnt.

The president’s decision not to be in a hurry to sign the bill, it was learnt, was to avoid a repeat of the mistake made by members of the National Assembly, who in their effort to punish political appointees, forgot to include themselves as delegates.

The new law, if signed, would only benefit the 2027 general election and off-season elections for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

A Presidency source, who confirmed this development last night, further disclosed that the president would await legal advice before signing the bill as recently amended by the National Assembly.

However, the PDP yesterday confirmed that the super delegates or statutory delegates would not vote at the state Houses of Assembly and House of Representatives’ primaries of the party scheduled to take place today (Sunday) as they were not elected as delegates.

Following the failure of the National Assembly to recognise themselves, the president, vice president, governors and other elected government officials as statutory delegates in the Electoral Act 2022, the Senate and the House of Representatives had penultimate week passed the amendment to the Act to recognise statutory delegates as voters during primaries, congresses and conventions of all the political parties.

The new Section 84(8) introduced in the Act recognises only democratically elected delegates.

It states: “A political party that adopts the system of indirect primaries for the choice of its candidate shall clearly outline in its constitution and rules the procedure for the democratic election of delegates to vote at the convention, congress or meeting.”

President Buhari, who returned from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday, had come under intense pressure to sign the fresh amendment bill to the Electoral Act 2022, to ensure that himself, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, members of the National Assembly, governors, their deputies and other statutory delegates of political parties can vote in the parties’ primaries.

Others who will be able to vote if Buhari signs the amended Act include the parties’ National Working Committee (NWC) members, state party chairmen, secretaries, local government chairmen, deputies, councillors, and party chairmen in the 774 local government areas.

But the Presidency source said that Buhari was not in a hurry to sign the bill to avoid the repeat of the previous mistake made by the National Assembly.

“When the president receives every bill, he seeks the advice of all relevant agencies. In this case, he has sent the bill to the AGF and INEC for advice. So, he is not in a hurry to sign it. That was how the National Assembly was in a hurry and so busy punishing political appointees that they forgot to include themselves as delegates. Whenever he signs it, it takes effect for subsequent elections,” the source explained.

The source wondered why the signing of the bill should become a major issue when the political parties have other options to conduct their primaries.

“They have three options – direct, indirect and consensus. In the case of indirect primary, they have already provided for the use of elected delegates and there is nothing wrong with that. In PDP, they have elected three ad hoc delegates – one national delegate and two others. In APC, there are five delegates. Other political parties have their own provisions. So, the political parties already have delegates that will vote in their primaries,” the source added.

With the president’s hesitant to sign the amendment, it means only national delegates elected at the local government congresses will determine presidential flagbearers of the party.

The ad hoc delegates were elected in line with the provisions of Section 84 (8) of the Amended Electoral Act 2022.

Section 82(3) of the Electoral Act, 2022 makes it mandatory that the primaries must be conducted democratically.

By Article 4.5 of the INEC’s Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Political Party Primaries, a political party that adopts the indirect primary mode shall make available to the commission, not later than seven days to the date of the primary, the list of persons that will form the delegates that are eligible to vote for the nomination of the party’s candidates to contest every eligible position.

According to the guidelines, the list of delegates shall be accompanied by the list of aspirants and the list of the party’s electoral panel conducting the primary.

With the commencement of primaries this week, it is already late for the amended Act to be used for the election of parties’ candidates for the 2023 general election.

APC’s presidential primary holds on May 29 and 30, while the PDP presidential primary is slated for May 28 and 29.

PDP has already confirmed that the super delegates or statutory delegates will not vote at today’s primaries of the party as they were not elected for the 2022 primary elections.

The main opposition party confirmed this in a statement issued yesterday titled: “Use of elected delegates for the primaries and national convention,” by its National Organising Secretary, Mr. Umar Bature.

“By Section 84(8) of the Electoral Act, 2022, delegates to vote at the indirect primaries and National Convention of political parties to elect candidates for elections shall be those democratically elected for that purpose only.

“Consequently, those qualified and eligible to vote as delegates in the forthcoming primaries and National Convention of our great party, the PDP are the three ad hoc delegates per ward, elected at the ward congresses, and one national delegate per local government, elected at the Local Government Area Congresses.

“Furthermore, the NWC wishes to inform our party members that the state Houses of Assembly primaries to elect our state Houses of Assembly candidates, earlier scheduled for Saturday, May 21, 2022, will now hold on Sunday, May 22, 2022, from 8:00 am to 12 noon; while the House of Representatives primaries to elect our House of Representatives candidates will also hold on Sunday, May 22, 2022, from 2:00 pm.

“All aspirants, critical stakeholders, leaders, and teeming members of our party should please take note,” Bature explained.

By implications, only 326,081 delegates elected in 28 states and FCT during the three-man delegate elections will vote across 36 states to elect governorship, and members of House of Representatives candidates will vote as from today.

There are 8,813 wards in Nigeria multiplied by 28 states where the governorship elections will take place.

Similarly, only 810 delegates elected in the 774 local government areas and area councils of the FCT in the one-man delegate election will decide the PDP presidential flag bearer.

This has led to calls to shift the primaries to enable President Buhari to sign into law the amendment to section 84 (8) of the Electoral Act.

For instance, speaking at the Round table conference of the Abuja School of Politics and Social Thoughts, Professor Sam Amadi, who was the former Chairman of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), Prof. Udenta Udenta and Kelechi Azubuike accused the members of the National Assembly of cutting their face to spite the nose.

The trio of Sam Amadi, Udenta Udenta, and Kelechi Azubuike said that by the old Section 84 (8) waiting to be signed into law, the federal makers cannot even vote at the congresses and presidential primaries because they were not specifically elected for that purpose.

To salvage the situation, they appealed to INEC to extend the datelines for the political parties to elect their flag bearers.

They also appealed to INEC to alternately issue a guideline as a regulator to guide the political parties on the issue of section 84 (8).

However, Civil Society Groups on electoral matters yesterday rejected the demand for an extension of the timetable and schedule of elections so far released by the INEC as requested by the 18 political parties, stating that to do so would pose danger to the electoral processes.

Several CSOs, in a statement, commended INEC for rejecting the IPAC request for extension.

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JUST-IN: Nasarawa LG Chair Kidnapped, Security Escort Killed

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The executive chairman of Keffi local government council of Nasarawa State, Hon. Muhammed Baba Shehu, has been kidnapped by unknown gunmen along Akwanga-Keffi highway on Saturday.

The FidelinfoNews gathered that his personal security guard was killed in the process.

Tthe State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Ramhan Nansel, in a telephone interview confirmed the abduction of the chairman by unknown gunmen.

Detail shortly….

 

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EFCC Arrests Accountant-General Over N80bn Fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arrested the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) Ahmed Idris over an N80 billion fraud.

The FidelinfoNews learnt that EFCC spokesman Wilson Uwujaren confirmed his arrest in a statement issued on Monday evening.

He said Idris was arrested after failing to honour the commission’s invitations to respond to issues connected to the fraudulent act.

Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday, May 16, 2022, arrested serving Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris in connection with diversion of funds and money laundering activities to the tune of N80 billion( Eighty Billion Naira only),” Uwujaren’s statement read.

“The Commission’s verified intelligence showed that the AGF raked off the funds through bogus consultancies and other illegal activities using proxies, family members and close associates.”

According to the EFCC, the funds were laundered via real estate investments in Kano and Abuja.

 

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