NUJ Decries Killings, Kidnapping in Katsina

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• State tackles consultant over N66.268bn Paris Club refund

Alex Enumah in Abuja and Francis Sardauna in Katsina

The Katsina State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) yesterday expressed dissatisfaction over what it described as unwanted killings, kidnapping and other forms of banditry bedeviling the state.

This is coming as the state government is currently embroiled in a legal battle with a financial consulting firm, Mauritz Walton Nigerian Limited, over the state’s alleged failure to honour its contractual agreement to pay the firm 20 per cent of the $217.3 million (N66.3 billion) due to it from the Paris Club refund by the federal government.

The union, in its Sallah message to the people of the state, said the wanton destruction of lives and property by bandits in frontline local government areas of the state must be stopped by security agencies.

The state’s Secretary of NUJ, Tukur Dan-Ali, in a message sent to the union’s platform, said: “NUJ is quite aware and concerned about the unwanted killings, kidnapping, cattle rustling and other forms of banditry and insurgency particularly in Batsari, Safana, Danmusa, Kankara, Faskari and Sabuwa local government areas (LGAs) of the state.

“In particular, the killings and kidnapping have put many of our brothers and sisters into tears that necessitated the celebration of this year’s Eid-el-fitr in low key and sorrow stage”.

While applauding security agencies for curtailing the carnage in some parts of the state, the union urged them to accentuate their efforts in order to eradicate the menace.

Meanwhile, the the state government is currently embroiled in a legal battle with a financial consulting firm, Mauritz Walton Nigerian Limited over the state’s alleged failure to honour its contractual agreement to pay the firm 20 per cent of the $217.3 million (N66.3 billion) due to it from the Paris Club refund by the federal government.

The firm in a suit filed at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, claimed that it was appointed by Katsina State, by a letter dated August 18, 2014, with reference No: MOF/STAFF/409/1/31 to ascertain and recover the excess deductions by the federal government from its account to service its external debt between July 1995 and March 2002.

In its statement of claim, the complainant disclosed that an agreement was reached between it and the Katsina State Government that it would be paid 20 per cent of what was due to the state from the excess deduction, which is commonly referred to as the Paris Club refund.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the consulting firm, Dr. Maurice Ibe, in his witness statement claimed that, through his firm’s efforts, it was ascertained that Katsina State was entitled to $217,274,991.01 (estimated at N66,268,872,258.00 calculated at an exchange rate of $1 to N305) as Paris Club refund.

Ibe added that his firm’s efforts yielded further results when President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2016 directed the payment of the first tranche of the Paris Club refund to states, including Katsina.

He stated that although almost all the amounts due to Katsina State has been paid into the state’s account, marked: 1019265062, in the United Bank for Africa (UBA), the state has refused and failed to pay his firm the 20 per cent fees agreed between parties.

Ibe further stated that despite the pendency of the suit and existing interim orders by the court, restraining further payment to Katsina, the 2nd defendant (Central Bank of Nigeria), on the instruction of the 1st defendant (Finance Minister) recently paid N35,364,610,435 to the 4th defendant (Kastina State), through the 5th defendant (UBA).

At the resumed hearing of the case on June 3, plaintiff’s sole witness, Ibe was cross-examined by lawyers to the defendants except that of Katsina State, who said he required about an hour to question the witness.

Ibe, while being cross-examined, insisted that his firm was entitled to be paid the 20 per cent fees for the services it rendered to the state government and that the other defendants were indirectly involved because they were in custody of Katsina’s funds.

Justice Ekwo, while adjourning further hearing to October 14, 15 and 16 this year, warned parties against dissipating the res (subject of dispute) in the case.

The plaintiff, in the suit is praying the court for several declaratory reliefs, particularly a declaration that it is entitled to N13, 253,774,451.60 being 20 per cent of the total N66.3 billion refund due to Katsina, by virtue of the agreement between parties.

In the suit filed on its behalf by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Wole Olanipekun, the plaintiff is also seeking an order of court compelling the state government to pay it the N13.25 billion, being its due remuneration for the consultancy services it rendered to the state “leading to the recovery and release of the 4th defendant’s said external debt excess debits refunds.”

In the alternative, the plaintiff wants the court to order the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants – Finance Minister, the CBN and the Accountant General of the Federation – to pay it the amount due to it.

It urged the court to order the sum due to it be paid along with 20 per-cent interest from October 1, 2018 until judgment and thereafter, at 10 per-cent until the judgment sum is fully paid.

The plaintiff equally seeks N75 million cost against the defendants – Finance Minister, the CBN, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Katsina State Government and the UBA.