President Muhammadu Buhari has succumbed to pressure by state governors and has instructed that 50 per cent balance of the Paris Club Debt refund be paid to them.
This was even as the governors have agreed to deploy the refund to pay workers’ salaries, in time for the yuletide celebrations.
The governor, however, said they would clear the arrears, on the condition that the refund gets to them before the yueltide.
The presidnet gave the payment directive, yesterday, during a meeting with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The governors were led to the meeting, which held at the Presidential Villa, by the ir Chairman and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who briefed State House Correspondents after the closed-door meeting, also confirmed the president’s directive.
The governors had, in October, demanded the release of the remaining balance of the Paris Club refund by November, to enable them include it in their 2018 budget appropriation.
Yari had led seven of the governors to meet with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, in October.
Those in the October delegation were Governors 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.
Okorocha siad: “It was a brief meeting between the governors and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The discussion centred on Paris Club refund basically. It is the end of the year and the president has expressed the need to ensure that every Nigerian, especially the workers, have a beautiful Christmas and the issue of outstanding Paris club was discussed and that was taken care of, to ensure that workers in various states and everywhere in the country get to celebrate Christmas.
“We also seized the opportunity to review our working relationship with the president, from the states, and we found out that we are in harmony.
“There is no difference between us and the president. Everybody seems to be happy working together. But, particularly, we commended the president for getting Nigeria out of recession, within such a short time. We commended Mr. President and everybody left quite happy.
“We are looking at getting the balance of Paris Club refund thrashed out once and for all.
“We also made a request for Mr. President’s approval that the balance should form part of our 2018 budget because we can’t include it until we are sure that the money is coming. That was also sorted out.
“So, as it is now, the issue of workers took the centre stage and Mr. President was concerned about those who depend on their salaries, to feed their families and pay their house rent and he had the assurance from the governors that we will meet up those obligations. It was emphasised that states and federal governments must work together to get Nigeria out of its present economic predicament to make Nigeria a better society for all of us.”
Asked if all salary arrears will be cleared by each state before Christmas, Okorocha said, “Yes, with the Paris Club coming, every worker should enjoy his/her Christmas. I made it clear.”
Asked how the refund can be used to pay salary arrears and still form part of the 2018 budget, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai’s said, “Let me explain. The Paris club figures need to be reconciled. While the reconciliation process was going on, the president approved that 50 per cent of the original amount be paid to the states. The payment started from last year. We still have the balance of the first 50 per cent.
Asked to give the exact figure expected, el-Rufai replied: “I don’t know the amount. I’m sure that if you contact the Ministry of Finance, they can give you the total amount. I only know what my state is likely to get. There is another 50 per cent that needs to be paid when the figures are reconciled. The reconciliation is going to be concluded before the end of the year.
Under the Paris Club loan refund, he federal government has disbursed N760.17 billion, paid in two tranches of N522.74 billion and N243.79 billion each to the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory.
A breakdown of the payment showed that Abia got N5.72 billion; Adamawa, N6.11 billion; Akwa Ibom, N10 billion; Anambra, N6.12 billion; Bauchi, N6.88 billion; Bayelsa, N10 billion; Benue, N6.85 billion; and Borno N7.34 billion.