James Emejo in Abuja
Delta State Commissioner for Finance, Mr. David Edevbie saturday said monies released to states by the Federal Government as part of the Paris Club refund had been judiciously utilised by the state government.
He also said he believed the rest of the money owed the states would be released when ongoing verification exercise is concluded.
Speaking when he appeared on Arise Television, a sister organisation to THISDAY Newspapers, he added that details of how the money was expended by the state could be found on the state’s website.
His explanation came against the backdrop of allegations that the $2 billion Paris Club refund which was recently approved by President Muhammadu Buhari and released to states to boost their fiscal positions had been diverted by the governors into their private pockets.
The Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has denied the allegation but investigation has been launched. He said: “As far as Delta State is concerned, the monies we received have been judiciously spent and if you go to our website you’ll see how we spent it to the last kobo.
“First of all, it’s our money, and so it’s like any normal FAAC receipt and that’s exactly how we imputed it. It goes on budgeted items and it’s on our website. I think it’s (alleged diversion by states) been investigated. Let’s await the outcome of the investigations. Nigerian Governors Forum has come out strongly and said no such thing happened. Let’s wait and see.”
He also said there has been increased agitation by states for greater resource control in recent times.
Edevbie, however berated the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) for failing to review the sharing formula for over a decade despite being mandated by law to do.
He said: “I think once the reconciliation exercise is over, I think they’ll make the payment. The question is, how would they do it? They’ve mentioned the fact that they’re considering floating some bonds and making the payment over five to ten years. That would seem fair because they drew the money over a period of time but I think most governors want the money right now.”
He said: “To be honest with you, this is an issue. It’s quite funny that there’s so many issues not being dealt with and we focus on things not just important. For example, the constitution is very clear: there’s supposed to be a review of the revenue formula every ten years but the last time the formula was reviewed in this country was 1992 and actually it’s supposed to be reviewed every five years.
“And everyone is keeping quiet and what happens is that the federal government is taking about 58 per cent; the states 24 per cent and the local governments 20 per cent, for a formula that has been in place for over 35 years if not more and no one is saying any about it.”
Continuing, he said: “We have the revenue mobilisation, allocation and fiscal commission in place; I really wonder want they’re doing. Its mandate is to come out with new revenue formula and it hasn’t done that in decades.
On resource control, he said: “Certainly in the Niger Delta States, we’ve been agitating here, that’s obvious but I also think what happened more recently in the northern states, they also are agitating.
“They realise they have a lot of minerals they control and within their borders and nothing is being done by the central government to extract those minerals from their borders.
“So they want more control but unfortunately the sort of system we run in the country at the moment which is very federal with everything centralised, there’s not enough incentive and in fact were not even protected by law to have accessed these revenue.”
Asked if he’s sure the states will get the remaining refund from the Federal government, he said: “We will get the money back. It was taken from the states during the period in question between 1995 and 2006, it actually goes back further.
“We are dealing with the first part of it which is actually $6.9 billion. And we’re asking for a refund and the gold thing about it is the Federal Government accepts that they did over deduct and that’s why I find it quite amusing when people refer to it as Paris Club Refund. That’s not correct. It’s actually a refund on foreign loans inclusive of the Paris Club: it covers a wide-range of loans.”