Governors demand release of 50% balance of Paris Club refund by November

The governors of the 36 states of the federation have demanded the release of the balance of the Paris Club refund by November, this year, to enable them include it in their 2018 budget appropriation.

Seven of the governors met with President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, in his office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The delegation was led by the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, of Zamfara (North East).

Those in the delegation were Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom representing South South, Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi, representing North West, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, representing North Central, deputy governor of Ebonyi, Dr. Eric Kelechi Igwe representing South East, Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi, representing North East, and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo, representing South West.

The Federal Government had disbursed to states as refund under the Paris Club loan a total of l N760.17 billion paid in two tranches of N243.79 billion each, to the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory.

State House

The president had approved the amount in partial settlement of long-standing claims by state governments relating to over-deduction from their allocations from the Federation Account for external debts service arising between 1995 and 2002.

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had, last month, asked President Buhari not to release the third and final tranche of the Paris Club refund to state governors until they make a concrete commitment to use the money to settle outstanding salaries, allowances and pension of workers and retirees in the country.

Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting which last about two hours, Govermor Yari said they were at the Villa to thank the president for the previous bailouts as well as the Paris Club refund, which he said had helped them in meeting the obligations of their states.

According to the governor, “We are here on behalf of the 36 states governors and this is a result of the collective decision to see the President after the National Economic Council meeting last month.

“Our mission here is simple, we are here to thank Mr. President for his concern about the state of the economy and for giving us several support ranging from bail out, restructuring our debts, Paris club exit payment.

“We also told him that we think that it was because of his decision to grant us bailouts and pay the refund of the Paris Club that many Nigerians are criticizing him, this is the reason why we got out of recession.”

Yari said the funds got to close to 200 million Nigerian citizens residing in respective states of the federation.

“These support is going down to them, when you are taking the indices from the grassroots. We thanked the president for that and at the same time, as a father we said to him Mr. President you remember that in 2016, we presented to you the numbers of Paris exit funds which we agreed, and you directed we be paid 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent open reconciliation.

“Reconciliation has been on since 2016, we are hoping that both the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ministry of Finance, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November, so therefore we want to crave your indulgence so that we can factor the numbers in our 2018 budget, so that we can use it for projects and other recurrent spending according to the specification given by our respective House of Assemblies and that’s why we are here.

“Mr. President was prompt being that he has a representative in the National Economic Council that is the Vice President and Minister of Finance is away. We are going to work on the numbers when he returns from his trip, we are going to follow up this meeting with him so that we can conclude on what is going to be done next.”

A federal court had on Friday last week ordered that N1.2 billion allegedly paid a firm ‘fraudulently’ by the Nigeria Governors Forum be forfeited to the federal government.

The court gave the ruling based on an application by the anti-graft agency the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).

In granting the EFCC prayers, Justice Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court in Lagos ordered anyone interested in the money to appear before the court within 14 days to show cause why the money should not be permanently forfeited to the federal government.

The anti-graft agency has been investigating the alleged fraud by the NGF.

In a statement released later by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said President Buhari at the meeting with the governors expressed concern on the growing complaints and agitations by workers in states over unpaid salaries and allowances, in spite of interventions by the Federal Government.

President Buhari said the plight of workers in the states needed urgent attention as many could barely survive.

State House

In the words of the president, “How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months.

“I actually wonder how the workers feed their families, pay their rents and even pay school fees for their children,” he said.

The President also told the governors that two out of the three-pronged focus of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to secure the country and fight corruption had received some commendable reviews by the people, noting that the challenge in payment of salaries in states had taken a toll on the people.

“God has been merciful in hearing the prayers of his servants so the rainy season has been good, you can ask the Kebbi State governor on this, and our enormous food importation bill has gone down.’’

President Buhari said the Federal Government and state executives would need to work closer together to ameliorate the situation of workers across the country.

The President said he had instructed all government agencies to comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in order to ensure more transparency and prudence in accounting for the revenues of the government and the sharing of entitlements with states.

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