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S418M Paris Club Refunds: Governors Tackle Malami

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*AGF’s action self-serving, fraudulent

*We’ll pursue matter to Supreme Court

Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) yesterday came under scathing criticism over his position on the controversial $418 million Paris Club consultants’ fee.

The 36 states’ chief executive officers, under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), described the AGF’s action as self-serving.

The NGF’s position was contained in a communique issued at the end of its meeting, held at the Conference Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
It was read to reporters by its Chairman Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who is Ekiti State Governor.

The NGF and the AGF have been at loggerheads over the latter’s insistence that the cash is deducted from the states’ allocation from source to pay consultants hired to push the cause of the governors.

Malami, who featured on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme on Tuesday, said the issue of the payment would be resolved before the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure on May 29 next year.

According to the AGF, it was established that the payment was outstanding.

He said: “This is a point that they are in no way contesting. When this matter became an issue of the judicial contest, ALGON (Association of Local Governments of Nigeria) and the Governors’ Forum submitted a consent judgment before a court of law, agreeing that these deductions are effected and payment is made.”

He said they engaged a consultant, submitted to a consent judgment, provided a letter of no-objection by ALGON and letters of indemnity by the governors, as well as approved that the Federal Government should effect payments.

“Are we now saying that the Federal Government should allow itself to be subjected to ridicule and embarrassment arising from the attachment of its assets, taking into consideration that, at a point, action is instituted against Federal Government, and this time, joining ALGON as a plaintiff against the government and you think the AGF will fold his arms and allow judgment against the interest of the Federal Government?

“The implication is that the government will be embarrassed, its assets will be attached; including financial assets, foreign reserves and any other associated income deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria can now be executed upon and payment made to the consultant. It’s an inherited issue and we are trying to address it as a government of the day.”

But Fayemi said the governors have resolved to pursue the issue, which is before the law court, to a logical conclusion.

Insisting that the planned deductions from the state’s allocations to settle the controversial consultancy fee would amount to illegality as the matter is before the courts, the NGF alleged that Malami is not acting in the public interest.
The communique reads: “The forum extensively reviewed the purported attempt by the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, to secure the approval of the Federal Executive Council to effect illegal payment of the sum of $418 million to contractors who allegedly executed consultancies in respect to the Paris Club Refunds to state and local governments.

“The forum set up a committee comprising the Chairman, the governor of Ekiti State, the Vice Chairman, the governor Ondo State, the governor of Plateau State, the governor of Nasarawa State and the governor of Ebonyi State, to interface with the committee set up by Mr. President to review the matter.
But the position of the Governors’ Forum is clear and unequivocal. Although this matter is sub-judice and we are very reluctant to get in the way of a matter that is still being pursued in the courts, we are constrained by the manner in which the Honorable Attorney-General has been going around various media houses and purporting to create the impression that this is a liability to which governors have committed themselves to and agreed to, even though he is very much aware that that’s not the case.

“We reject all of the claims that he has made on these issues and we also insist that states will not give up on insisting that these purported claims will not stand, as far as governors are concerned, and we will use every constitutional and legal means to ensure that these purported consultancies are fully litigated upon by the highest courts in the land. If the courts now find governors and the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and states liable, then, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

“As far as we are concerned, this is a matter that governors feel very strongly about and we do not believe that the Attorney-General is acting in the public interest.

“We believe he’s acting in personal, selfish interest that would ultimately become clear when this matter is fully addressed in the law courts.”

Governors seek solutions to economic problems, ASUU strike
The governors also deliberated on the prevailing economic and security situation in the country, resolving to intervene by engaging with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to deliberate, and suggest immediate action plans to ameliorate the current situations.

They said: “The Forum extensively discussed the state of the Nigerian economy and security, following a presentation by Mr. Bismarck Rewane, member of the President’s Economic Advisory Council.

“The Forum resolved to immediately engage with the Federal Government and other critical stakeholders; Labour, the presidential candidates of political parties, and corporate actors on finding resolutions and suggestions to implement a set of immediate actions to ameliorate the worsening economic conditions in the country.”

On the prolonged industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the communique said: “The forum encourages the Federal Government and ASUU to find meaningful resolutions to the lingering impasse and as proposed to engage with both parties, just as we have done in the past, in a bid to ending the strike.”

NGF promises improved funding for primary health care
The Forum also resolved to increase funding for the health care sector and encourage fiscal transparency in states.
It reads: “One, the Forum launched a Primary Health Care Leadership Challenge, a flagship programme to revamp the primary health care under the one-roof policy in the country by maximising the commitment of state governors to primary health care under one roof, promoting progressive increase in primary health care funding, and ensuring all primary health care centres have the requisite human resource capacity.

“The leadership challenge is a joint project of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Aliko Dangote Foundation, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCD).

“Starting from December 2022, the challenge will be anchored on a total of 13 awards to state governments, consisting of 12 awards for the best performing and most improved states in every zone and one award for the overall best performing most improved state.”

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Economy

Currency Speculators in Trouble as Naira’s Resurgence Continues

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Currency speculators are in trouble as the Naira has continued to gather strength in the market in recent times.

It would be recalled that the US Dollar exchanged for nearly N2,000 in February this year, same with the Pounds, Euro and other foreign currencies.

However, the Naira has continued to gather strength and is currently hovering around N1,480 and N1,520 for a Dollar.

To that end, the Presidency has warned forex speculators to discard their Dollars, saying that the Naira will soon appreciate more and may depreciate their savings.

President Bola Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, made this call in a statement via his X handle on Thursday.

The presidential aide urged speculators to quickly dump their dollars to avoid “tears.”

He stated, “With backlog FX settled, Naira is set to appreciate further, faster. Currency speculators should quickly dump their stock of dollars to avoid sorrows and tears.”

Onanuga was reacting to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, disclosure that it had cleared the $7 billion foreign exchange backlog inherited by Governor Yemi Cardoso.

Yemi Cardoso, CBN Governor

In a statement on Wednesday, CBN’s Acting Director of Corporate Communications, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, confirmed the settlement of all valid FX backlog claims.

Ali said the apex bank employed Deloitte Consulting, an independent auditing firm, to meticulously assess the transactions, ensuring that only legitimate claims were honoured.

“Any invalid transactions were referred to the relevant authorities for further investigation,” she stated.

The CBN’s commitment to tackling the FX backlog appears to be paying off, with the external reserves seeing a significant rise, reaching $34.11 billion as of March 7, 2024, the highest level in eight months.

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Economy

CBN Uncovers $2.4b Invalid FOREX Claims

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CBN Governor Yemi Cardoso

Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Yemi Cardoso said the apex bank has discovered $2.4 billion invalid forex outstanding claims pressuring the naira and causing anxiety in the currency market.

Cardoso disclosed this in an interview with Arise Television on Monday.

According to Cardoso, this was uncovered during an audit by the consultant the CBN hired, which exposed a number of dubious transactions.

The CBN Governor stated that the apex bank commissioned Deloitte to look into the FX allegations to provide a true picture of the situation.

Cardoso said, according to the Deloitte assessment, up to $2.4 billion of the backlog consists of fictitious claims, with claimants in certain cases being unable to provide import documentation.

“We had had reasons to believe we needed to take a harder look at these obligations. So we contracted Deloitte management consultants to do a forensics of all these obligations and to actually tell us what was valid and what was not,” Mr Cardoso said.

“The result that came out of this was startling in a great respect. It was startling. We discovered that of the roughly $7 billion, about $2.4 billion had issues, which we believe had no business being there and the infractions on that ranged from so many things, for example not having valid import documents and in some cases entities that do not exist,” he said.

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Economy

We are Determined to Stabilise Forex and Boost Economic Growth. -FG

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By Christopher Sunday

Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, has said the Tinubu administration is committed to implementing macroeconomic reforms.
aimed at curbing inflation, easing the cost of living, and stabilising the foreign exchange as part of the broader objective of boosting economic growth.

The Minister stated this on Saturday in Minna, Niger State, at the 2024 Press Week of the Niger State Chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Represented by the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria, Mallam Jibrin Baba Ndace, the Minister said the year 2024 holds a lot of prospects for Nigerians as some of the promising initiatives of the administration begin to bear fruit.

“Permit me, distinguished invited guests, as chief spokesperson of the Federal
Government of Nigeria, to use this hallowed platform to tell Nigerians, at this early and auspicious time of the year, that 2024 would be a great year for Nigeria as thepolicies of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu under the Renewed Hope Agenda takefirmer roots for the growth of our nation’s economic development, our invaluablehuman assets, and national security.

“The Tinubu administration will continue to implement macroeconomic reforms.
to achieve broad economic objectives of sustained economic growth aimed at
bringing down inflation, easing the cost of living, and stabilising foreign exchange
and job creation, among others,” he said.

Idris said, against the backdrop of the withdrawal of fuel subsidies, liberalising the foreign exchange regime, and the fight against corruption, the Tinubu government is showing fidelity to the rule of law and the independence of institutions, as demonstrated in the recent judgements of the courts.

The Minister explained that the recent Federal Government decision to relocate certain departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the headquarters of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) to Lagos is part of a broader strategy to enhance operational efficiency, streamline processes, ensure a responsive financial system for Nigeria, and cut operations costs. He emphasised that the government’s directive aligns with global best practices and has no political motivation, however wrongly propagated.

The minister assured that no policy of the present administration would put any part of the country in a disadvantageous position. “President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment to fairness and equitable development, as outlined in his oath of office, ensures that no policy under his administration will disadvantage any region. His dedication to fostering national unity and inclusivity is reflected in policies guided by principles of fairness and equality,” he said.

The Minister, who also used the occasion to enlist the support of the media in the fight against fake news, said the hydra-headed menace of fake news is ravaging the media space. “My dear colleagues, we need to rise against the elements of fake news that are deliberately designed to misinform Nigerians,” he said.

Idris also announced to the gathering that the Federal Government would soon unveil comprehensive details of the National Values Charter, which are aimed at inculcating values in the citizenry.

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