A High Court in the Federal Capital Territory Abuja (FCT) has ordered that the Paris-London Club Refund bank accounts of Abia, Cross River and Delta states be frozen.
This development will send shock waves across the states through the affected states.
It will be a serious source of concern to many workers, pensioners, and contractors being owed in these states, whose hope was rekindled with the announcement of the disbursement of the second tranche of the refund from the finance ministry to the states.
The order which was issued by Justice Yusuf Halilu, was sequel to an affidavit in support of an ex-parte originating summons sworn to by Dr Maurice Ibe, Chairman and Managing Director of Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd, as filed by his lawyers, Alex Marama, Charles Ude, and Kenneth N. Esq.
The lawsuit followed a dispute over delay in payment of agreed fees between the states and the consulting firm they engaged to pursue the refund of the excess deductions and other charges on the Paris-London Club loan.
The Court ordered the banks to set up an escrow account where the funds in the respective bank accounts will be deposited pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice.
In the affidavit, Ibe argued that there was an urgent need for the court to direct the third defendants (United Bank for Africa Plc and Zenith Bank Nig. Plc) in the case between Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd and the three state governments to, in the interim, stop further disbursement of the money already in or accruing to the Paris-London Club Refund accounts of the three states.
Claims in the affidavit showed that Abia State government reportedly owes Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd $11,325,000 and N1.72bn, while Cross River State government owes the sum of $8,050,000 and N1.2bn.
On its part, Delta State government owes $27,274,135 and N3bn.
The three states had engaged the consulting firm on separate arrangements and agreed fixed percentages on refunds secured as professional fees.
Abia State government had engaged Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd on the 3rd of November, 2014 to pursue the refund of excess deductions on foreign loans and miscellaneous charges in exchange for 30 percent of any fund recovered.
Likewise, Cross River State government engaged the firm on the same date for the same purpose in exchange for 20 percent of any fund recovered, while for Delta State government, Mauritz Walton Nigeria Ltd was engaged in exchange for 30 percent of any fund recovered.
Justice Halilu adjourned the suit to 7th September, 2017 for hearing.
Many in these states will wonder why their government would renege on such an important agreement as this, as they desperately yearn for a quick resolution of the issue so that the stated intention of the governors to employ the refund for the settlement of arrears of salaries and allowances can become a reality.
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