The Nigerian Governors' Forum, NGF, last night, cleared the air on claims that a large chunk of cash meant for the refund to states from the Paris and London clubs had been diverted and shared by some unnamed governors in the country.
The NGF made it clear that since the current leadership of the body stepped into the matter, which started as early as 2005, nothing illegal had been committed in the entire process leading to the final disbursement to states of the first tranche of Paris-London Clubs repayment of the excess deductions from states' coffers and the refund of their loans.
The position of the NGF is contained in a statement signed by its Head of Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, in Abuja.
The NGF said it was to the credit of the current set of governors that President Muhammadu Buhari accepted their proposal and ordered the release of the refunds, which had been hanging over the years, to their states to pay arrears of salaries.
The forum stated that President Buhari would not have authorised the release of the second tranche of the refunds to states if there had been any case of corruption or unpatriotic practice associated with the disbursement of the first tranche by the NGF.
The NGF said: "It is true that there were conditions attached to the disbursements but these arose from the collective and voluntary resolution of the governors and not any draconian order from any quarters.
"It shows that the governors themselves are responsible, sensitive and compassionate enough to understand the plight of Nigerians that they govern and therefore work in the interest of their people.
"It is important to state that in approving the repayment, due process was diligently followed and each and every approving authority, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation as well as the National Assembly were duly informed from the beginning to the end of all the transactions.
"Nothing illegal was done and no money was paid into the personal account of any governor, legislator or top officials at any of the levels and arms of government in the country."
The NGF also clear the air on the involvement of many consultant in the process of determining what accrues to each state and what was due to them in the end, pointing out that there was no attempt whatsoever to cheat.
"Indeed, a number of consultants were saddled with the task of verifying the amounts due to each of the states. These consultants were recruited by the respective states but were eventually collapsed into a consortium of only a few, even though the others who did not make it to the final group were reimbursed according to their input.
"It may interest the readers that many more consultants throughout the country are still insisting that they did work on this same Paris-London Clubs repayments since a decade ago and that they are entitled to some compensation as well.
"Many of them had actually and verifiably done some work in the past and negotiated a fee of between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, with the different states that engaged them. It was therefore immoral and impossible to deny each their due, provided their input is verified and justified
"It should be noted that if the Federal Government under the watch of President Buhari had found anything corrupt, illegal and unpatriotic about the payment or the utilization of the first tranche of the Paris-London Clubs Fund repayment to states, it would not have approved the payment of the second tranche to the states.
"After all, we all know the unimpeachable level of commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari on the issues of transparency and accountability. In any case, those writing those fictitious reports on the payment have also acknowledged that the president had insisted on the verification of the process of utilization of the first tranche before the second is approved for release.
"Note also most importantly at this juncture that every decision that was taken in respect of all the transactions was with the full consent and blessing of the 36 governors.
"We therefore find the insinuation in the media that monies went into the private accounts of seven unidentified governors as not only preposterous but mischievous. This is more so because none of the reports was able to identify a single governor, not to talk of seven.
"The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, itself had issued a release exculpating all the governors, saying it was investigating the matter further. But instead of allowing the EFCC to conclude its investigations, a particular section of the media resorted to this unsavoury falsehood which puts the media and its practitioners in bad light.
"Finally, this forum wishes to appeal to the media to ply their trade responsibly. We know that in a democracy comments are free, but facts must be sacred too," the NGF pleaded.