*Allegations of manipulation of economy against Finance Minister
By Soni Daniel
Feelers from some state governors at the weekend suggest that unless President Goodluck Jonathan issues an urgent directive to the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to release funds due to the 36 states, the President risks further isolation from this group of elected public officers.
State governors, according to Sunday Vanguard investigations, are angry with the Federal Government over the non-remittance of their three months’ allocations in full by the Finance Ministry.
Although all the governors in the country are not pleased with this financial situation, only seven of them, who are with the breakaway faction of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, have openly cried out, saying their governments are experiencing financial incapacitation.
However, PDP governors still loyal to Jonathan and the Bamanga Tukur-led faction have opted to “suffer in silence” over the withheld funds, believing that the situation would be addressed with the urgency it deserves.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that they have also chosen to tolerate the situation so as not to be seen as disloyal to the President and the party.
A northern governor, whose state has virtually been grounded as a result of inadequate funds to meet the obligations of his administration, confirmed that most “of us are quite upset over the financial distress imposed on us by the Federal Government.”
The governor, who is one of the staunchest supporters of Jonathan and who insisted on speaking in confidence, said: “If urgent steps were not taken by the Presidency to put an end to the emerging financial crisis in the states, more governors would be forced to distance themselves from Aso Rock Villa and the Finance Minister.
“We are afraid that if the current situation, which we believe is artificially created so as to punish some states and their governors is not stopped, many governors would be left with no option than to seek redress.
“It is difficult for the Finance Minister to convince us that after generating N1.05 trillion in July this year, a figure that was well over the projection by government for the month, states could not be paid their full allocations for the month.
“As we speak, we have not been paid for August and September while our people are anxiously looking up to us as governors to give them dividends of democracy through provision of life-changing projects.
“In almost all the states, the salaries and emoluments of civil and public servants have not been paid while contractors are on edge waiting to do battle with the governors.
“If we may ask, where has all the money gone since Okonjo-Iweala keeps insisting that the economy is robust and kicking?”.
Another governor from the South, who narrated the situation in his state to Sunday Vanguard, noted that he would have to stay away from his state for as long as the Federation Allocations were withheld so as not to run into trouble with contractors.
The governor said, “The financial position is so bad that I have to avoid going to my office daily because contractors are waiting for me. I have no genuine excuse to give since they won’t believe that for the past three months we have not been given our full remittances by the centre.
“This is what we have been exposed to by the Federal Government even with increased revenue confirmed by the Central Bank of Nigeria accruing to the purse of the government.
“Nigerians should be more vigilant by asking the Finance Minister where our money is being kept. Let them tell Nigerians what happened to the balance of the N1.05 trillion that accrued to Nigeria after N792billion was shared to states for July.
“We have made the point that it is either they are hiding our money for 2015 elections or they are deliberately manipulating the economy to give Nigerians the impression that all is well when the nation is broke.”
But, last Thursday, the Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Samuel Otorm, insisted that the nation’s economy was very sound and making progress on all fronts.
The minister asked Nigerians to ignore those in the ‘New PDP’, who allege that something is wrong with the economy but carefully avoided saying why monthly allocations had not been remitted in full to states by the Federal Government.