The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has engaged Femi Falana, to challenge the judgments awarding some “consultants and contractors” humongous shares of the Paris and London Club refunds received from the Federal Government by the various states and their local governments.

Mr Falana, in a letter dated April 19, 2021, written to the Minster of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, on behalf of the NGF, requested that the plan to issue promissory notes to the purported creditors, in deference to the legal steps being taken to appeal against the judgments.

The Senior Advocate of Nigeria’s letter is sequel to an earlier correspondence dated April 8 sent to the finance minister by a law firm, Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN & Co, on behalf of one of the creditors, Ted Iseghoghi-Edwards.

PREMIUM TIMES’ previous expose on the controversial judgment debts has revealed that Mr Iseghoghi-Edwards is laying claim to $159 million for providing consultancy services to the Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) to secure the Paris Club refund.

Our report revealed that a total of $418 million judgment debts (about N159 billion at the exchange rate of $1 to N380.5) has already been cleared for payment by influential officials of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

This platform’s report revealed those behind desperate push for the payment to be the Chief of Staff, Ibrahim Gambari, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the finance minister.

They have concluded on paying the six creditors through the issuance of promissory notes to be funded from state governments’ allocations for 10 years.

Our reports had shown that the officials are pushing for the payment, despite Mr Buhari’s directive suspend it after the NGF raised an objection to it and called for a forensic audit of the whole indebtedness.

The Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) has, on different occasions, written to the AGF, Mr Malami, querying the claims by Mr Iseghoghi-Edwards and a firm, Riok Nigeria Limited.

A investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) received by the AGF has also questioned the $159 million (about 60.5billion) being claimed by Mr Iseghoghi-Edwards.

While Mr Malami has justified his push for the purported creditors to be paid, he has refused to answer the 10 questions PREMIUM TIMES asked him to answer over the matter.

NGF’s fresh letter

In his letter written on behalf of the NGF, Mr Falana urged the finance minister not to issue promissory notes to Mr Ted-Iseghoghi or any of the creditors yet, as his client is set to challenge the judgment on which the monetary claims are anchored.

The lawyer stated that his client’s documents challenging the judgment and asking for stay of execution of the judgment would be filed as soon as the ongoing judiciary workers’ strike is called off.

“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has engaged our services to challenge the decisions of the court relating to or connected with payments of legal and consultancy fees arising from London Club Debt Buy Back and London Club Debt Exit Payment, which is the fulcrum of the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja in Suit Nos, FHC/ABJ/CS/130/13 – LINAS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED & ORS.V. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA & ORS.

“As you already know, the claim of Dr Ted Iseghoghi-Edwards arose from legal services he allegedly rendered to the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).

“Consequently, we have prepared all the court processes challenging the judgments of courts and seeking for stay of execution and/or injunction pending appeal.

“We have been unable to file due to the ongoing strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), which has occasioned a complete shutdown of our courts,” the letter reads in part.

Argument, requests

Mr Falana cited section 162(5) of the Nigerian constitution which, according to him, “mandates” that any amount standing to the credit of local governments be paid directly to the states for the benefit of their local government councils.

“The states therefore have a responsibility to ensure that funds standing to the credit of the local government councils are protected as custodians of such funds,” he added.

He urged the finance minister not to accede to the request by Mr Ted-Iseghoghi-Edwards’ lawyers for the issuance of promissory notes relating to settlement of the disputed judgment debts.

“We need to inform you of your sacred duty of staying action on this matter in view of the injunctive reliefs sought in the processes to be filed in court on these matters,” the letter reads in part.

It added, “while extending the assurances of our highest regard, we hope that you will exercise restraint by resisting any urge to issue promissory notes to anyone (including Dr. Ted Iseghohi Edwards, Mr. Ned Munir Nwoko, Panic Alert Security Systems, Dr. George Uboh, Riok Nigeria Ltd, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu & Barrister Bello Olaitan Busayo) pending the determination of these actions by the court.”

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