PARIS CLUB: THE MAKING OF A NIGERIAN 'HERO'
Nigeria’s national anthem in terms of melody and metaphor can compete favourably with the best amongst the global nations.
It goes thus: "Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria's call obey to serve our father land with love and strength and faith; The labor of our heroes past; Shall never be in vain; to serve with heart and might; One nation bound in freedom, Peace and unity."
The National Anthem and pledge represent the sum total of the glorification of heroism and patriotism thereby appealing to the consciences of contemporary Nigerians to strive in all their private and public endeavors to become patriots who would always think of what to give to the country and not what necessarily what to take back from, the country (apologies to John F. Kennedy).
But amidst challenges that characterize the tumultuous era of dictatorship of relativism and the deification of materialism all around the world, in Nigeria, finding a real patriot in our contemporary epoch has become increasingly difficult as if to say it is now a rocket science to discover a genuine Nigerian patriot.
But out of the ashes of scepticism and the ballooning sceptre of doubts, has arisen a rare patriot who devoted substantial amount of expertise to work towards making positive impacts in the economic field all in an effort to stem the rising tide of economic downturns.
That rare patriot is Prince Ned Nwoko, a lawyer of global repute who initiated the well acclaimed effort to secure substantial refund to the country from the Paris/London club of creditors.
The monetary value of refund runs into several billions of United States Dollars and these funds have on two occasions, gone a long way to ameliorate the biting economic recession in the 36 states of the Federation following the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to pay to the states what should be refunded from the overservicing of that debts' overhang to the multilateral funding entity in Western Europe.
Some amongst my reader’s may be asking what makes this consultant in the person of Prince Ned Nwoko a hero, given the fact that as a business venture, his company would have by right been paid some percentages as commissions for this ingenuity.
My simple response is to say that it takes a patriotic genius to constructively devote his skills and talents towards articulating procedures whose end would substantially benefit the entire country.
Just like what one of the profounded revered Fathers of Philosophy, Plato stated in his political philosophy that for a nation which is bedevilled by existential crises of development to emerge victorious, it would take the rare ingenuity and creativity of a philosopher-king.
So, Prince Ned Nwoko can be rightly called a philosopher king in his own field because of this economic feat he has achieved for corporate Nigeria.
In his words, Plato, the most respected Philosopher of Ancient Greece, who lived between 427 to 347 BCE stated thus: “until philosophers are kings, cities will never have rest from their evils”.
Put in another way, the economic recession bedeviling Nigeria can only be tackled headlong and conquered conclusively and meaningfully, when patriotic experts bring their creativity and rare talents to bear in the service of the collective public good of Nigeria by articulating a process of retrieving massive refund from Paris/London club of creditors.
What makes the entire scenarios to appear like the making of a heroic patriot is that it took this gentleman many years of paper works and international conversations made possible by several trips to Europe for this endeavor to succeed.
There is a very endearing maxim which goes thus: " You can't give what you don't have" or in Latin " Nomen dat quod non habet".
In his own words, our modern day Philosopher- King in Nigeria Prince Ned Nwoko narrated how the entire exercise became a reality thus:
His words: "I have traveled all over the parts of the whole world, I studied and practice law in the most civilized part of the world and I see things, I knew what is going wrong, the abnormal things the average man may not see. Also, I am a detailed person, I see what is up there and what is down, that demonstrates the interests I have in seeing things done properly, not just been done but been done properly".
He said he has been interested in the local Government affairs, how they generate revenues and how they get their money.
The erstwhile national parliamentarian does not mince words in making the historical affirmation that the Paris Club Loan Refund been talked about in different fora and specifically in the public space is his brainchild.
"I did it with my own initiatives and using my law firm and company, Linas International limited”, he asserted.
He continued thus: “The last one I did was a 3.2billion dollars against the federal government. I do not come fighting the federal government, I fight for the masses and that has been my motivations. So, I am very satisfied that this refund which I secured is what is surviving the whole federation”.
The historical trajectory of the Paris Loan Fund refund shows that the initiative by Prince Nwoko happened many years ago because a lot of States and the federal government took foreign loans, to build Hospitals, Bridges, Stadia and whatever they wanted to build.
"States took different loans for different purposes. There were no uniform loans but most of the lenders were either London group of banks or Paris group of banks or what you called the multi nationals lenders like the World Bank, the international monetary fund or the European Union”, he explained.
In the course of executing this cumbersome task, this gentleman discovered that the servicing of the loans was not handled properly, for instance, the federal government will go to London or Paris and say they are rescheduling loans, but when they reschedule the loans, they add interests, add penalties, add things that were not in the original agreement.
The abovementioned additions were illegal deductions in his own judgment which eventually proved to be factually correct.
He submitted that the federal government guaranteed these loans and as usual every month the federal government will deduct certain amount of money from the federation account for servicing the loans.
This process been explained above is very important because according to him, the money which the federal government sets aside for loans servicing supposed to be for three tiers of government.
Sadly, the Consultants found out that the Federal government will deduct these money in the name of servicing the loans, but in some instances, they were not servicing the loans just as it was discovered that the Federal government will take the money from the state allocations without remitting them to the lenders.
To bring it down to the ordinary man's language, Prince Ned Nwoko stated that the failure to remit withheld allocations from the Federating entities by the central government back to the Paris Club could be summed up a scam.
"some of them were fraudulently done, you could say they were negligently done, but my job was to demonstrate, using my law firm, using my legal experiences, using accountants, charted forensic technical enquiry agents to proof that those States have overpaid the loans and I was able to prove that for most of the States", he argued.
"After that, I was able to prove that there were irregularities in the loan repayment, I have all the copies of the Court documents, you can go through them, nobody has done this in Nigeria”.
Another interesting finding he made was that contrary to widely held but wholly ignorant idea the local government never took any loan but were victimised in the repayment to the European lenders by the national government.
“Everybody knew that Local governments never took any foreign loans, so if for example the federal government wants to service the loans, they ought to take the money belonging to the States that took the loans and not money belonging to the Local Governments”, he affirmed.
He also broke down the technicalities and intricacies that embodied in the whole scenarios of Paris Debts' repayment by the Nigerian government he stated that in what is called first line, federal government will just take the money from the monthly federation account, for example, maybe they have say 50billion Naira to be shared between the three tiers of government, what they do is to take out about 20billion Naira in the name of servicing the loans before they can now share the remaining 30billion Naira.
To this Lawyer, that was wrong, because Local governments did not collect any loans, so what they could have done is to give out the money to the three tiers first, and then collect the loans servicing percentages from the States that borrowed money from the lenders.
“It supposed to be, okay State A, you are owning this, we deduct this from you, State B, you are owing that, we deduct that from you, State C is not owing, we give you your full allocations."
"No, they did not do that because they were too lazy to present them (States) with true figures”. So, what I was able to do was to prove that Local Governments did not borrow any money, any loans whatever, so they were wrong to have deducted from the Council allocations. I argued that the deductions were illegal, the Court agreed with me, the federal government did not appear because they knew I was right", Nwoko explained.
You may want to know the methods and the institutional mechanisms he deployed yp achieve the above feats but Ned Nwoko answered thus:“I used my company, Linas International limited and my Law firm, Ned Nwoko solicitors, they are the two companies I used for the Local Government allocations”.
He spoke further: “I used Ned Nwoko Solicitors for the State allocations because these are loans.. I went to Court in London, I went to Court in Geneva, I went to Court in New York, to Austria and to Switzerland, against the lenders, to get the Courts to compel the lenders to disclose how much they have loan to Nigeria. I also went to Court at Abuja, to compel the federal government to disclose how much they have paid the lenders”.
“So, we were able to reconstruct the loans and that was how we were able to find out the foul play. But the easiest one was the Local Governments, because they did not borrow any money, so their deductions should be refunded and the Court agreed."
Nigerians spoken to whilst putting pen to paper for this piece told this Writer that Prince Ned Nwoko deserves all the accolades and commendations from every Local Government worker, and all the States' Civil and public servants, including pensioners because they are getting their pay due to funds from the Paris Club Refunds”.
Before concluding let me say that there was a pertinent question asked by some observers why a patriot had the courage to drag the government to court as part of the long drawn out processes that resulted in the refund but he offered some words on why he had to litigate the matter.
Hear him: “Federal workers may not like me because I compelled them to play back the illegal deductions to the Local Governments and States, but I am very satisfied for what I did and I will do it over and over again”.
“You know that without this Paris refunds many States could have gone bankrupt. Before now they were taking Bailouts, but for how long would they could have survived with bailouts?Now they do not need it, they are now surviving with what I have done”, stated.
According to him, the worst thing that came out after all this battle was that the federal government refused to pay his fees because he fought them just as states refused to pay his legal fees even though they received the money.
But he refused to bend the rules or to play dirty. He proceeded to the competent court of law in compliance with section 6 of the Constitution which recognized the courts as having the judicial powers of the Federation just as the Court indeed lived up to its name as the last hope of the vommon man and delivered a landmark decision in line with the Principle of Rule of law compelling the Federal and state governments to pay Prince Ned Nwoko his lawful fees legitimately earned.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko heads HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA AND BLOGS @ www.emmanuelonwubiko.com,[email protected] ..