Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State said Monday that he was offered $80million bribe to drop his objection to the settlement of the $418million judgment debts purportedly owed by states and their local governments in securing the Paris Club refunds.
He told PREMIUM TIMES in an exclusive interview that he was offered the money after he rejected an initial $40 million offer.
Mr Fayemi, who is the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), said the fixers who approached him over the matter, also raised the offer to $80 million when they could not break his resistance with the initial $40million offer.
He said he similarly rejected the $80million offer in the interest of justice.
PREMIUM TIMES, in extensive reports on the matter, revealed how Mr Fayemi since taking over as the NGF Chairman has been making efforts to stop the planned payments, demanding a forensic audit to determine the legitimacy of the entire $418 million debts which translates to about N159 billion.
Our reports revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, along with the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has been scrambling to have the purported creditors hurriedly paid, despite the red flags Mr Fayemi-led NGF, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), have raised against it.
A follow-up story later published by another media platform after our first report, however, accused Mr Fayemi of demanding 10 per cent of the total amount at stake to drop his his objection to the payment.
The NGF denied the allegation, but PREMIUM TIMES went further to contact Mr Fayemi for his personal response to the allegation.
Responding to our enquiry, Mr Fayemi said the claim was being bandied around to smear him and blackmail him into submission.
“That allegation is not true. The allegation was sponsored to smear me and blackmail me to compromise my stand,” Mr Fayemi said, after an initial dismissive laughter.
He added, “The so-called creditors have rather been reaching out to me and sending emissaries to beg me to change my position on the matter.
“I was initially offered 10 per cent of the entire $418 million, which is about $40 million, to support the payment and I said no, this is not about me. Then the offer was raised to 20 per cent, which is about $80 million, but I still rejected it in the interest of justice and Nigerians.
“To be frank, I was alarmed that some persons sent to me could agree to discuss such an issue with me.”
‘Nothing against creditors, but an audit is necessary’
Mr Fayemi said he had nothing against the creditors but had to ensure that the right thing is done.
“I don’t have anything against the creditors,” the governor said. “But I believe we should carry out the forensic audit in the interest of justice. If after the audit, it is found out that they are legitimate debts I will immediately support the payment. But we have to do what is right.”
The controversial debts had arisen from various court judgments ordering that some “contractors” and “consultants” be paid for certain services and projects executed for the various states and the 774 local governments.
Some of the claimants were said to be consultants said to have been engaged by the states and local governments to secure recovery of funds over-deducted from their allocations between 1995 and 2002 to service then London and Paris Club loans.
The contractors among the claimants were purportedly engaged to execute certain projects in all the 774 local governments in anticipation that they would be paid from the Paris Club refunds.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how past leaderships of ALGON and the NGF had given tacit support to the six claimants in securing court judgments to validate their claims to their shares of the refunds.
Mr Fayemi-led NGF with the support of the National Executive Council (NEC), has however demanded a forensic audit of the contracts leading to the judgments and the entire indebtedness.
The creditors who are laying claim to a total $418,953,670.59 (amounting to about N159 billion at a conservative exchange rate of $1 to N380.5) a former member of the House of Representatives, politician and lawyer, Ned Nwoko, who is laying claim to $142,028,941 (about N54 billion).
Three of the beneficiaries laying claim to $143,463,577.76 (about N54.6 billion) via a judgment of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/2129/2014 are Riok Nigeria Ltd, Orji Nwafor Orizu, and Olaitan Bello.
The claimant with the singular lion share is Ted Iseghoghi Edwards, who is laying claim to $159,000,000 (about 60.5 billion), even though an EFCC report acknowledged by the AGF has stated that he is not entitled to the payment.
A firm, Panic Alert Security System Limited, owned by George Uboh, is also laying claim to $47,831,920 (about N18.2billion) based on another “consent judgment” it obtained in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/123/2018.