By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – THE 36 Governors of the Federation under the umbrella of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, Tuesday met with President Muhammadu Buhari in closed-door at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, and demanded for the payment of the balance Paris Club Refunds as agreed in 2016.
The governors also commended the President for his intervention in the payment of salary crisis in many States through the the bailout funds, adding that the bailout had remained a great relief bearing in mind that the majority of the nation’s population resides in rural areas of the states.
Recall that President Buhari in the first tranche of the refunds, approved the release of N516 billion to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
A total of N243. 795 billion was released to the states in the second tranche as part of the wider efforts to stimulate the economy and support states in meeting salary and other obligations, thereby alleviating the challenges faced by workers.
But the President has 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 according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said the plight of workers in the states need urgent attention as many could barely survive.
He said, “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.”
The President 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.
He said, “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 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.
Chairman of the NGF, Abdulaziz Yari at the meeting said the various interventions by the Federal Government, which include the bailouts, were judiciously utilized by the states, stressing that the governors inherited backlog of unpaid salaries and huge debts portfolios on assumption of office.
He said, “We are concerned with the situation in our states, and we are trying our best to manage the resources.”
Yari noted that the bailout funds, and part of the fallout from the London-Paris Club that had been received by the states, were properly expended to alleviate the plight of workers, but more had to be done.
The NGF chairman commended the efforts of the President in improving the economy, assuring that the states would continue working with the Federal Government to improve the livelihood of workers and all Nigerians.
While speaking to journalists, Governor Yari flanked by representatives of governors from the six geopolitical zones said that they reminded the president that in 2016, they presented to him the numbers of Paris Club exit fund and an agreement was reached that 50 percent should be paid, while the remaining will be open for reconciliation.
On their mission at the Villa, he said, “We are here on behalf of the 36 states governors and this is as a result of 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 economy and the situation by giving us several supports ranging from bail out, restructuring our debt, London- Paris Club exit payment etc.
“We also told him that we think that it was because of his decision he has taken (to give bailout), in which many Nigerians are criticising him, this is the reason why we got out of recession.
“Note that the 200 million citizens residing in Nigeria are residing in respective states. This 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 confronted him (by reminding him that) Mr President you remember that in 2016, we presented to you the numbers of London and Paris exit funds which we agreed, and you directed we be paid 50% and 50% open reconciliation .
“Reconciliation is on since 2016, we are hoping that both DMO, (Debt Management Office), Ministry of Finance, AGF (Attorney General of the Federation) and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November.
” 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.
“That is 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 with 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.”
The delegation of NGF drawn from the six geopolitical zones with Zamfara state governor as Chairman were, Atiku Bagudu, from North West, the Bauchi governor, Mohammed Abubakar, North East, Governor Abdulfatai Ahmed of Kwara State, North Central, the Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu from South West, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, South-South and the Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Eric Kelechi Igwe, representing South East as well as the Director-General of NGF, Asashana Okauru.