The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and the Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, are at the centre of another financial fraud, after forcing the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay $350 million (about N133 billion) as judgment debts on behalf of some states and local governments.
SaharaReporters learnt that the AGF and Gambari’s move to have the money paid was contrary to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum’s stance that the judgment debts should first be subjected to a probe – a request which President Buhari had acceded to.
The judgment debts concern the payments of a total $418 million, said to be owed six individuals and entities who purportedly offered services to states and their local governments on the payment of Paris Club debts.
SaharaReporters gathered that Malami and Gambari forced the CBN to cough up an initial $350 million from the sum, which was secretly shared between the entities, including a former House of Representatives’ member, Prince Ned Nwoko.
Premium Times had on Monday exposed that there was a growing tension between the NGF and a ring of powerful presidential aides – referring to Gambari and Malami – over the $418 million judgment debts owed six individuals and entities who rendered services to states and their local governments on the payment of Paris Club debts.
The newspaper had reported that while Gambari and other collaborators were scrambling to start the disbursement as quickly as possible, the NGF chaired by Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, had requested a probe into the debts and asked that payment should not be made at the moment.
The moves by Gambari and Malami to begin the judgment debt payments are against Buhari’s directive issued in January this year, and in disregard for the red flag raised by the governors about the legitimacy of the indebtedness.
The Fayemi-led NGF is demanding that the payment be suspended until a forensic audit of the indebtedness is carried out.
But Mr Gambari, who is spearheading the moves for the prompt payment of the money, is backed by the AGF and also by the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, both of whom argue that the court judgments which awarded the sums to the creditors must be hurriedly obeyed.
Top presidency sources told SaharaReporters on Wednesday that the CBN had already paid out $350 million of the sum against Buhari and NGF’s stances, and the money had been shared among Malami, Gambari and some of the conniving entities, including Nwoko.
The source explained, “Malami, Ned Nwoko and Gambari already got the money. The first one was also shared between (former Zamfara Governor Abdulaziz) Yari, who was also former NGF Chairman, and Ned Nwoko. They said the CBN governor did not approve cash and settled for promissory notes because for the last $350 million, the CBN governor was not paid his entitlement.
“So, these people had collected and shared an initial $350 million. It was that money Nwoko shared to ex-NGF Chairman, Yari. But his share was frozen by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and has remained like that till date.
“Nwoko then bought a jet at first and when the jet had an accident, he bought a second one and married that little girl (Regina Daniel). With the rest of the money, he purchased high rise estates in Abuja and then was broke for a while.”
According to Premium Times, a breakdown of the beneficiaries reveals the identities of the six persons and entities being owed a total of $418,953,670.59, about N159 billion.
“The beneficiaries include a former member of the House of Representatives, politician and lawyer, Ned Nwoko, who is laying claim to $142,028,941 (about N54 billion) via a consent judgment he obtained from the Federal High Court in Abuja in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/148/2017. Three 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.
“From the total money, Riok Nigeria Limited has a share of $142,028,941.95 (about N54 billion), Mr Nwafor is entitled to $1,219,440.45 (about N464 million), and Mr Bello has a share of $215,159.36 (N81.7 million).
“But despite this, the NGF believes that there are ongoing moves to go ahead with the payments especially as the forum still cannot extract the Chief of Staff’s commitment to abide by the president’s latest directive,” the report stated.
Fayemi had, therefore, written to Gambari on March 8, 2021, stating that the NGF had noticed “that there are attempts to proceed with defraying the purported debts to some consultants who claim to have executed various services to the states in respect of the London Paris Club refunds.”
“Notable among these so-called judgment creditors are Prince Ned Nwoko (Ned Nwoko Solicitors), Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu (Riok Nigeria Limited), Dr Ted Iseghohi Edwards and Dr George Uboh (Panic Alert Security Systems PASS),” the Ekiti governor added.
Mr Fayemi expressed concerns about the development, saying “it flies in the face of the meeting convened on February 3, 2021” which was chaired by Mr Gambari.
He reminded the Chief of Staff of “the resolution of the National Economic Council (NEC) authorising an independent forensic audit”.
The governor urged Mr Gambari to advise “all parties to work within the ambit of the NEC resolution in reviewing the purported judgment debts and the approvals of Mr President conveyed in your letter dated February 16, 2021, to the Honourable Minister of Finance, in order to safeguard the integrity of the Nigerian state.”