• FG releases N243.8bn to 36 states and FCT
Obinna Chima in Lagos and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
Of the N243.8 billion released on Monday by the federal government to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as the second tranche of Paris Club refunds, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Rivers got N10 billion each, making the five states the highest recipients of the refunds for over-deductions on Paris and London Club Loans and multilateral debts between 1995 and 2002.
A statement Tuesday by the Director (Information) in the Ministry of Finance, Salisu Na’Inna Dambatta, who confirmed that the second tranche of the Paris Club refunds had been released to all states and the FCT, added that the funds were released on the premise that a minimum of 75 per cent of the funds would be applied to the payment of workers’ salaries and pensions by states that owe salaries and pension.
The statement said Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Kano and Rivers States got N10 billion each, and were closely followed by Lagos and Katsina which got N8,371,938,133.11 and N8,202,130,909.85.
Also, while Oyo got N7,901,609,864.25, Borno was paid N7,340,934,865.32, Imo – N7,000,805,182.97, Jigawa – N7,107,666,706.76, Kaduna – N7,721,729,227.55, Niger -N7,210,793,154.95, Ondo – N7,003,648,314.28, Benue -N6,854,671,749.25, and Cross River – N6,075,343,946.93.
Abia was paid N5,715,765,871.48, Adamawa – N6,114,300,352.68, Anambra – N6,121,656,702.34, Bauchi – N6,877,776,561.25, Ebonyi -N4,508,083,379.98, Edo – N6,091,126,592.49, Ekiti – N4,772,836,647.08, Enugu – N5,361,789,409.66, Gombe – N4,472,877,698.19, and Kebbi – N5,977,499,491.45.
Kogi was refunded N6,027,727,595.80, Kwara – N5,120,644,326.57, Nasarawa – N4,551,049,171.12, Ogun – N5,739,374,694.46, Osun – N6,314,106,340.62, Plateau – N5,644,079,055.41, Sokoto – N6,441,128,546.76, Taraba – N5,612,014,491.52, Yobe – N5,413,103,116.59, Zamfara – N5,442,385,594.49, and the FCT – N684,867,500.04.
The ministry explained that the refunds were approved by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 4.
It said: “These payments which totalled N243,795,465,195.20 were made to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory upon the approval of the president on May 4, 2017, in partial settlement of long-standing claims by state governments relating to over-deductions from their Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocation for external debt service arising between 1995 and 2002.”
It quoted the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, to have stressed that the debt service deductions were in respect of the Paris and London Clubs’ loans and multilateral debts of the FG and states.
“While Nigeria reached a final agreement for debt relief with the Paris Club in October 2005, some states had already been overcharged. The funds were released to state governments as part of the wider efforts to stimulate the economy and were specifically designed to support states in meeting salary and other obligations, thereby alleviating the challenges faced by workers.
“The releases were conditional upon a minimum of 75 per cent being applied to the payment of workers’ salaries and pensions for states that owe salaries and pension.
“The Federal Ministry of Finance is reviewing the impact of these releases on the level of arrears owed by state governments.
“A detailed report is being compiled for presentation to the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as part of the process for approval for the release of any subsequent tranches,” the statement added.
Confirming payment, Osun, Ekiti and Abia State governments said Tuesday that they had received the second tranche of the refunds.
A statement by Mr. Semiu Okanlawon, media aide to the Osun State governor, said N6.314 billion was paid into the state’s coffers on Monday, adding that the state government was committed to utilising the resources of Osun in the best interest of the people.
He said the state government also restated its commitment to keep to its promise to meet its obligations to concerned stakeholders in the state.
Similarly, Mr. Lere Olayinka, spokesman of the Ekiti State governor, confirmed the state’s receipt of the money in a statement.
The statement said the amount would be shared between the state and local governments.
In Abia, its Commissioner of Finance, Mr. Obinna Oriaku, also confirmed that his state had received the money, but said the state got lower than the N11 billion to N12 billion it was expecting.
Oriaku said despite the shortfall, the Abia State governor had directed that the released funds should be committed wholly to the payment of salary arrears.
With the latest release of N243.8 billion by the federal government, the total paid to the states and the FCT amounts to N766.53 billion as Paris Club refunds, having released N522.74 billion last December.
However, after the federal government released the first tranche of refunds, which was done to enable the states offset the outstanding salaries and pensions of their workers, it was trailed with controversy, as some state governors were accused of corruptly diverting the funds into other uses and paying huge sums to consultants that they had contracted to assist them to recover the monies.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has since launched an investigation into the allegation.
The governors, under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), have since denied that the first tranche of Paris Club refunds were diverted.