By Jonathan Ugbal
The Cross River State Government says it has not paid a dime to any consultant as fees for aiding in the collection of the Paris Club Refunds.
The Commissioner for Finance, Asuquo Ekpenyong Jr told this correspondent in a telephone conversation that all the monies collected were applied for the payment of salaries, gratuities and pension arrears with no consultant paid so far.
“I can’t give a direct confirmation because what I have is not through the official line of communication because we have not been served a notice officially but this is what we have heard.
“However, it is important to state that some of the information I have seen online; the state has not paid any consultant whatsoever. Cross River State has not paid any consultant for the Paris Club (refund).
“The Paris Club (refund) was used strictly for the payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities.
“If you want a clear breakdown of the expenditure, that can even be given so the claims in the public domain that some consultants have been paid; I can tell you specifically that no consultant has been paid,” Mr Ekpenyong said.
Also, Mr. Ekpenyong wondered why a consultant was needed for business transacted between the federal and state government.
“Some people claimed that they are the consultants to the state government for the purpose of recovering or reconciling between the federal government and the state government.
“If the second tier of government is subnational, do you really need a consultant to come in and reconcile?” queried Mr Ekpenyong.
He reiterated his stance that no consultant has been paid a dime and described as “interesting” how the ex-parte order could be given without the state been served a court order.
“From what I have seen in the public space is that the state has been paying consultants. Cross River State has not paid any consultant a dime for the Paris Club Refund.
“This man says he is a consultant, now we are asking for better and more suited information on that, then the man takes people to court. It doesn’t make any sense.
“It is interesting how a High Court could give such a ruling without even inviting the state,” Mr Ekpenyong said.
Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court in Abuja yesterday ordered the freezing of freezing of CRS Paris and London Club Debit Refund, 101989719, UBA Bank Plc following allegations that the governor, Senator Ben Ayade preferred payment to family members, friends, and cronies in the guise of settling the fees for consultancy services at the expense of the real consultant progenitor of the Paris-London Club Refund.
The consultant, Mauritz Walton Nigeria claimed that the Cross River State government had approached them on November 3, 2014 to pursue the refund of excess deductions on foreign loans and miscellaneous charges in exchange of 20 percent of any fund recovered.
This means that Cross River state government owes them the sum of $8,050,000 and N1.2bn.
Justice Halilu, after granting the order freezing the accounts, adjourned the suit to 7th September, 2017 for hearing.