Vice President Namadi Sambo
From Ahamefula Ogbu in Abuja
The National Economic Council (NEC) yesterday set up a Committee headed by its Chairman, Vice President Namadi Sambo, to liaise with President Goodluck Jonathan on how to come to a middle point over the implementation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), which the Governors want reviewed.
Briefing newsmen after the maiden meeting of NEC, Gover-nors Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State said that given the new realities on ground, especially the sate of education in the North and payment of the new minimum wage, there was need to look at the Fund especially on how to fund it.
The duo were of the opinion that they could not be saving and drying up, or to save and leave the necessary things that would lead to development undone, adding that they were not actually against the idea but the funding of the fund.
Yuguda said of the SWF: “The SWF was discussed and the governors did agree yesterday that there was need for a rethink because of the legal implication. In any case, it is the consensus at our own meeting that the issue needs to be discussed further because the interest of Nigeria comes first before any other thing.
“If some of the dynamics involved might impact positively as it were, certainly the governors will have a review of the position. So what we did discuss today was that it was mentioned and it was unanimously agreed that we dialogue on it and see the best way of addressing g it rather than saying we are not going to be part of it.”
Also contributing, Suswam said they were not against the Fund but that realities have changed everything. He said there was a move to harmonise the ideas on the grey areas with a view to arriving at a common position.
According to him: “The Nigeria Governors Forum is not averse to the SWF, the issue is that in the implementation vis-à-vis what we agreed on before, there are slight differences but as we talk to you, there is a small committee headed by the Vice President that is meeting with the President for further discussion on it. What we want is that some reviews have to be made given the reality of the situation that we found ourselves now.
“We are talking about the minimum wage and that requires a lot of money in the hands of the state to meet up those obligations. So we are looking at it that, given this additional responsibility, there is also the need for us to look at the way that the implementation of the SWF would be carried out,” Suswam said.
Explaining further, Suswam said that given the expectations on the education front which needs a lot of money and the new minimum wage law, States need a lot of money which means that all resources of the States should be put at their disposal for them to carry out their duties without fail.
Denying that governors were playing politics with the SWF just like they promised to pay minimum wage and tried to renege after the election, Suswam replied, “Nobody is averse to it, we have to ally agreed to it and like I said earlier we are still meeting with the President to look, given the realities that are before us now, even the federal government is facing the realities.”
He had also told State House Correspondents that part of the issues discussed at NEC included how State Universal Basic Education Funds (SUBEB) could be accessed and for SUBEB to liaise with Education Trust Fund on how best to fund, adding that a sub-Committee which includes governors from each geo political zone.
Deputy Governor of Central Bank, Dr. Kingsley Muoghalu, who stood in for the governor, Lamido Sanusi, said the Nigerian Incentive based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending System (NIRSAS) was floated to ensure access to funds for farmers and encourage agricultural lending by banks to cover the entire agricultural chain from planting to export.
He said that agricultural bank lending in Nigeria was 1.4 per cent as against 10 per cent lending rate in other economies, adding that the coming on stream of the fund would derisk agricultural lending and increase the lending rate to at least seven percent in the next 10 years.
On the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, he said, “At the beginning there were some problems in term of accessing the fund but ever since then we have taken steps to unlock the flow of those fund to the agricultural companies through the banks, and about N120 billion out of the N200 billion has been lent out to various agricultural companies and to governors of States I believe about 24 State government have assessed the fund as I speak”.