Buhari halts fresh plan to deduct $418m consultants’ fees from federation account
President Muhammadu Buhari has rejected new measures to withdraw $418 million from the federal account to satisfy the Paris Club debt with consultants.
According to a Premium Times report, during the federal executive council (FEC) meeting on August 3, Buhari asked Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, to delay plans to commence the deductions.
The 36 state governors raised the alarm last week about an alleged plan to siphon $418 million from the federation account.
“The attention of the NGF has been drawn to yet another attempt by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Finance to circumvent the law and the recent judgment of the Supreme Court by surreptitiously securing the approval of the FEC to effect payment of the sum of $418 million to four contractors who allegedly executed contracts in respect of the Paris Club refunds to the states and local governments,” the governors said in a letter dated August 1 and addressed to Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the federation.
Despite originally accepting the $418 million payment to consultants, the president froze it in September 2021.
According to the publication, Ahmed and Abubakar Malami filed a document requesting that the cabinet allow the resumption of the deductions from funds due to states from the federation account.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, the governors were believed to have individually written to all ministries, outlining their stance and requesting action to prevent the proposed deduction from being strongly pushed by the justice and finance ministers.
According to the article, they were aggressively disputed in fast succession by Babatunde Fashola, minister of works and housing; Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labor; Boss Mustapha, secretary to the federal government, and two other cabinet members.
The FEC members who spoke out against the deduction claimed to have warned the gathering that any payment given to the contractors while proceedings are pending in court would be sub-judicial.
They also allegedly contended that Ahmed and Malami were callous to have proposed paying contentious debts to contractors at a time when the government is struggling to pay workers and fulfill its duties to residents.
The newspaper quoted its source as saying, “The ministers argued that since the issue is being challenged in court, and there is a supreme court pronouncement in place, it would be illegal to go ahead with the planned deductions.”
“The argument against the planned deductions was also made within the context of the nation’s economic crisis, poor revenue, and uncertain fiscal position.”
Against the backdrop of the ministers’ arguments, the paper stated that Buhari endorsed their viewpoint.
The president ordered that the proposed deductions be halted until the courts issued their final rulings.