By; Sunday Ode, Abuja.
Governors of the 36 states of the federation said they were ready to take on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is investigating possible diversion of the refund made to states from the excess charges of Paris Club debt.
Rising from a meeting of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) in the wee hours of Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the governors said they would be waiting to see what the anti-graft agency would come up with.
Reports emerged last week that the NGF may have used fictitious consultants to divert some of the money from Paris Club which had attracted the attention of the EFCC.
Worried by the development, the Presidency ordered a full scale investigation into the disbursement of the funds.
But answering questions from State House correspondents after the NGF meeting, Chairman of the NGF and Zamfara state governor, Abdulaziz Yari said the governors were ready for the EFCC probe.
He expressed governors’ support for the present administration’s war against corruption, noting that they would wait for the outcome of the EFCC’s investigation.
He declared: “We discussed the issue of Paris Club and London Club. We observed that EFCC said it is doing investigations. Yeah, we support the federal government for fighting corruption.
“We are waiting for the EFCC to come up with what they say is the investigation and come up with the result.”
The Presidency had ordered the investigation because it was angry that what it had meant to be a good gesture had apparently been compromised by selfish interests.
Top Presidency source had confirmed to the New Nigerian Newspapers that the federal government was worried that its efforts to ensure the settlement of pension and salaries owed to workers in the states was being sabotaged by likely diversion of the funds earmarked for the purpose.
It therefore expressed its determination to get to the bottom of the matter and consequently ordered relevant agencies to carry out a full scale probe to unravel any abuse the fund might have been subjected to.
Reports had also said the governors were spoiling for war with the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, over the decision of the EFCC to investigate alleged diversion of the money.
The reports suggested that the EFCC may have questioned the Director General of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Asishana Okauru, over the use of the possible diversion of funds by state governors as it was believed that the governors may have paid the money to phoney companies.
The reports also fingered the Senate President, Bukola Saraki over the abuse of the funds.
But the governors were said to be fighting back over what they claimed was the unnecessary harassment of members and officials of the NGF.
But the EFCC itself has denied that it indicted the 36 state governors and Senate President, Bukola Saraki for allegedly pocketing large slices of the Paris loan refund.
A media report on an online medium had alleged that the governors’ forum championed a five percent deduction of the funds paid to the states whereby some governors got about N400 million while Saraki got N2.5billion.
In the report, the EFCC was said to have been informed by Okauru that he transferred money to individual governors, through the NGF, though he failed to write an official statement to this effect.
Apparently reacting to the report, EFCC in a statement on its twitter handle, @officialEFCC, said that though investigation was ongoing on the reimbursement paid to state governments for excess Paris club deduction, it was yet to indict any governor or Senate President so far.
The EFCC said the investigation remained at a preliminary stage, chiding insinuations of attempting to cover up for some of the officials of the commission.
The commission said that it would brief the public of the results of its investigation as at when due.
The statement read, “The attention of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC has been drawn to a report captioned, Nigerian State Governors, Senate President Saraki Pocketed Billions of Naira from Paris Loan Refund, which appeared in the online news portal, Sahara Reporters on Sunday February 12, 2017.”
“The report among others claimed that the Commission has indicted all the governors of the 36 states of the Federation and the Senate President, Bukola Saraki in the ongoing investigation of the reimbursement paid to state governments by the Federal Government for excessive deduction charged to them on account of the Paris Club and other international loans.”
“The Commission wishes to state unequivocally, that no state governor or Senate President has been indicted so far by the investigation which is still at a preliminary stage. Also, insinuations about cover up by some officials of the Commission are untrue as there is no incentive to do so.”