Civil Society Organization Writes Abia Assembly, Demand Thorough Investigation on State Paris Club Refund
House Ad Hoc Committee on Paris Club Refund
Abia State House of Assembly
APPEAL FOR A THOROUGH INVESTIGATION & ENQUIRY INTO ABIA STATE PARIS CLUB FUND
We, A Civil society organization (CSO) Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, an Anti corruption, pro-democracy and environmental rights group, write you in respect of the subject matter hereinabove mentioned.
From the get-go, FENRAD has been following all the issues bordering on the alleged mismanagement, by immediate past Abia State administration (2007-2015), of the ₦22bn (twenty-two billion naira) Paris Club Refund the state received in tranches. This weighty allegation which has been making the rounds in both the mass and social media was advanced by Mr. Obinna Oriaku, former commissioner for finance in the state who recently appeared before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for questioning on the said Refund.
According to Mr. Oriaku, from 2011 through 2014, Abia State engaged two firms to wit: 1) Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd, and 2) Ziplon Nigeria Litd to help the state process application regarding the Paris Club Refund standing to its credit in the neighborhood of ₦22 bn. Testifying further, the former commissioner alleged that consultation fees of 20% and 30%, as agreed, were to be paid to the two firms from the ₦22 bn Refund which was not only fraudulent but equally unsustainable considering what other states paid as interest for consultation and given too the fact that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) had hitherto done everything regarding consultation fee. What is more, the former commissioner claimed that, at a point, one Sampson Orji was powering Ziplon Nigeria Litd which was a front for the state government (under His Excellency Senator Theodore A. Orji – 2007-2015).
The matter got to EFCC when one of the legal persons involved, Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd, petitioned the anti-graft agency demanding that the state pays it ₦11 billion it was in default of contrary to the agreement reached earlier.
We write the ad hoc committee believing that it will ensure justice is done to the letter in the matter for which the House leadership has set it up, as we understand. All the persons mentioned in the said allegation are politically exposed persons (PEP) and past high profile state officials. Mr. Oriaku is no rookie and should therefore know better having managed the state’s treasury from 2015-2019. His allegation which carries weight deserves to be investigated.
We urge this August ad hoc committee to ensure that all parties appear before it and that those mentioned answer to all allegations in which they have been mentioned and as well explain their role or roles in the said matter as no one is above the law.
It bears repeating that Abia State, like other states in the federation, faces financial crunch amid dwindling revenues – both from independent and statutory sources – following the pandemic. Funds in the neighborhood of ₦11bn (being 50% of the Paris Club Refund demanded by the two consultancy agencies) can go a long way fixing infrastructure, paying workers’ salaries, providing other services capable of boosting and accelerating economic activities in a time like this for the state.
We will be following this matter up and shall ensure that justice is done to the letter. We urge the ad hoc committee to leave no stone unturned in making sure that justice follows. To this end, we seek an open and expeditious hearing when the committee begins its work. Having stated this, the Foundation wishes to remind the committee that nothing has been heard of previous House committees that looked into corruption issues in the recent past. Few examples that may suffice for now are: the alleged illegal auctioning of vehicles by State Education Management Board (SEMB) officials and the alleged diversion of ₦200 million for Small and Medium Enterprise Microfinance Bank by persons said to be close to the state government. Issues of public finance should be a matter of public record for purpose of transparency and rule of law.
While we believe that these matters shall all get justice, we urge the committee to be fast and meticulous this time in discharging this core mandate it has been assigned to do for the good of the state and its people. Also, we pray the committee to look into the matter and make known the role of Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd and Ziplon Nigeria Ltd in the matter, their condition and terms of engagement, the role of Mr. Sampson Orji and whether it was true he was a government front.
If at the end of the day justice appears not to have been done by the committee or the court, FENRAD will be willing to push the matter farther, including filing fresh suit (appeal) on it till the very last of it is heard.
Barr. Olusegun Bamgbose
Head Legal Team
Comrade Nelson Nnanna Nwafor
FENRAD Executive Director
Aba.Abia state, Nigeria
For more information or to request an interview, please contact us on: +2348033383708,07062949232.