FEATURE ARTICLE

Segun ImohiosenSunday, April 2, 2017
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Abuja, Nigeria

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N19bn PARIS CLUB SCAM: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MATTER

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he opprobrium as regard the Paris Club N19Billion scam is rather unfortunate for the fact that when this “big big” sum is mentioned, it doesn’t translate to a better life or change the status quo of any regular Nigerian and for that matter the common man on the streets. The untold hardship Nigerians have to put up with, is it even the perennial power outage lately, coupled with the heat everywhere both at home and in the offices with no hope in sight, an unfortunate experience created by the wanton carelessness, share avarice, wicked greed of some of our people holding sway within the polity, with no regard for the larger percentage of the populace is saddening. So, the counterclaim and the shenanigan about the N19bn Paris Club fund ought to be laid to rest so the country could move out of its present logjam.

According to the reports making round in the media and other online forum saying that the EFCC indicts the Senate President, and some of his aides over the N19billion Paris club scam, it is disappointing that the impression created by these reports appeared to have zeroed in on the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki as being involved in the Paris club fund scenario. For the purpose of justice and clarity, it is important that the report is beamed in such a way that will unravel the mystery in which the issue is enshrouded, not by pointing accusing finger to only one quarter but bringing all that are concerned to book. If for the sake of immunity for certain very important personalities they cannot be probed or prosecuted, it is only fair that the names of the so called immune personnel be published.

The ongoing probe of the anti-corruption commission on this same matter ought to be all encompassing in that everyone involved be quizzed rather than singling an individual and his aides out for indictment. By the way, are the aides of the SP also involved in a matter that concerned the Nigeria Governors Forum? These are pertinent and key issues that ought to be brought to the fore and to the public domain for consideration. The question is who are those really involved in this matter? This is one of the very germane areas the probe should focus to make it a balanced report.

Nevertheless, in order to allay the fears of the public on the shadow cast over the imbalance report, it is consequential that EFCC make the matter a lot clearer and not just linking the diversion of the N19Billion in question to the Senate President and his aides. In retrospect, it should be noted that the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) engaged the services of consultants for the disbursement or reimbursement of the over deductions on the Paris Club loan from 1995-2002 paid by the Federal Government. One can only surmise therefore that it was not only Melrose General Services Limited of Robert Mbonu that carried out the consultancy activities on behalf of the NGF but other consultants whose names were never mentioned at any time while this report was filed through the media.

To single handedly finger the Senate President may create unnecessary detraction whereas other parties are also involved in the whole transaction. From the submission of the Head of Media of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdulrazaque Barkindo, he opined that many other consultants involved in the transaction were all duly engaged, and documented to facilitate the disbursement of the Paris Club loan refund. In this regard, as he submitted, the consultants that were engaged by the NGF were paid an amount that was commensurate to the services they provided the NGF. How then is the focus on just Melrose fingering the Senate President and his aides as being the culprit? After all this refund was done the previous year with Melrose and other consultants submitting their proposals to the NGF who duly engaged them to carry out the consultancy services. It is important that the submission of Barkindo be critically scrutinised in order to give the public a thorough picture of all that transpired with the NGF and consultants without making Bukola Saraki look like a cheap criminal.

The information available in the public domain as per the reports of the whole Paris Club transactions appeared rather one sided, making it look like the entire N19billion went to Melrose; this somehow is misleading. It would only be reasonable on the part of the anti-graft commission to publish the lists of all the consultants engaged by the NGF and specify how much each consultant got in the whole transaction. The only way it would be a balanced report is when this is done. In the same vein, as the NGF has engaged consultants to do their job same way the EFCC go beyond the Ministry of Justice to engage other private lawyers as consultants to assist in doing their jobs while the agreed specified fees are paid to them. Congruously, should we say that the NGF was wrong to have engaged the services of consultants or what? This question is begging for an answer.

However, on the heels of the recent faceoff between the Senate and the EFCC on the non-confirmation of the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, with the indictment of the SP and his aides regarding the N19bn Paris Club fund linked to them by the same anti-corruption agency at this time makes it appear like the EFCC is out to witch-hunt the Senate President. Do we say this is fast becoming like a clash of the titans. But for the sake of the well-being of Nigeria, particularly by reason of the economic debacle and the agony of the ordinary Nigerians, this brickbat between the executive and the legislature should be laid to rest for the country to move forward.

Nonetheless, a number of issues would allow the public make quick deductions or better still conclude to say that the anti-graft commission is looking for ways to down press the Senate President. It was only a matter of days back here that the matter of the Range Rover Bullet Proof car said to belong to the SP was said to have been purchased without proper documentations. Why are all these coming up simultaneously? It looks rather absurd that an SUV that came in 2015, which was never an issue in the public domain suddenly surfaced on the heels of the same non-confirmation of Magu. It doesn’t look right. It is more like a wise saying of the Yoruba that “Aje ke lana, omo ku leni, tani o mope aje to ke lana lo pa omoje”. A case of the witch that cried last night and the baby died the following day; of course the witch that cried the previous night killed the baby. Be that as it may, a balance reportage and proper investigation, holistic in nature ought to be done before the public is fingered. Segun Imohiosen writes from Abuja.

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