By Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja with agency report
President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday met with members of the National Council of Traditional Rulers and decried the way the Paris Club Refund was spent by some state governors.
The Minister of Finance had on May 4 released the second tranche of Paris Club refund to states totalling N243.8 billion. The refund was in respect of over-deductions on Paris/London Clubs and multilateral debts between 1995-2002.
The president, who expressed his concern over the utilisation of the refund by the states when he met with the traditional rulers led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Saâ€™ad Abubakar III at the new banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, frowned at the inability of the affected state governments to pay the retirement benefits and outstanding salaries of workers following the release of the refund, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
â€œWe have to digress this much because I would like to convince you that Iâ€™m living with the problems of this country day-by-day, and mostly those of the ordinary people.
â€œThere are Nigerians that havenâ€™t been paid for six months; there are Nigerians that have not been paid their retirement benefits for years.
â€œIâ€™m appealing to the governors (that was why we voted money, we borrowed money), please make sure anybody under you, pay them because most of them depend on that salary to pay rent and school fees,â€ he said.
Buhari also blamed the current economic travails on the mismanagement of national resources in previous years, pledging that he would continue to pursue projects aimed at improving the living standards of Nigerians.
He said Nigeria, as the largest country in Africa, ought to deploy the opportunity of its population to its advantage, assuring that his government was committed to the task of securing Nigeria.
The president, however, noted with delight that the country would be witnessing bumper harvest across the country this year, adding jocularly that had the harvest been poor he would have gone on exile.
He said the bumper harvest was as a result of the prayers of Nigerians, which was graciously answered by God.
â€œWe are lucky, last year and this year, the rainy season was good. If it were not good, Iâ€™m confiding in you, which country shall I run to?
â€œBut God answered the prayers of most Nigerians. The rainy season last year was good; this year, from the reports Iâ€™m getting, it is good.
â€œWe thank God for that, only God can do that for us otherwise there would have been a lot of problems in this country,â€ he said.
Buhari thanked the traditional rulers for their continued prayers and support for the government and urged them not to relent in efforts towards ensuring peace and stability in their respective domains.
He enjoined them to continue to educate their people on the need to ensure the continued survival of Nigeria as a geopolitical entity.
In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto thanked God for the presidentâ€™s recovery and safe return, saying the pledge of each monarch for his geopolitical regionâ€™s support for Buhari was an incentive for him to work hard for the nationâ€™s development.
â€œWe will continue to preach peace and stability, justice, transparency and accountability and anti-corruption,â€ he added.
On behalf of the South-west traditional rulers, theÂ Oni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi,Â also pledged the support of his region for the president.
â€œFrom the South-west, we thank God for your life and we pledge to support you from our communities because we are closer to our people. We will continue to preach to our people that we should continue to foster peace in our country.
â€œWe will continue to caution our youths against hate speeches. We cannot leave the development of the country to the government, as we have to work hand-in-hand. We assure you that we support all your initiatives,â€ Ogunwusi said.
Also speaking, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammad Sanusi ll, said the traditional rulers in the North-west identified with Buhariâ€™s commitment to national security.
On his part, King Jaja of Opobo, while speaking on behalf of traditional rulers from the Niger Delta, expressed the regionâ€™s commitment to the governmentâ€™s programmes.
â€œWe know there is tension here and there, but as traditional rulers, we donâ€™t eat politics. The economy has to be fixed. Coming from the region that produces the main stay of the economy, even though the country will soon diversify the economy, before we diversify, letâ€™s protect the one that we still have.
â€œWe are pleased to work for the peace and stability of the region so that we can all see the benefits of the commodity,â€ he said.
In the same vein, Gbom Gwom Jos, Jacob Buba Gyang, while speaking on behalf of North-central monarchs, thanked God for bringing the president back, saying politics cannot be played with health issues, even as he drew the attention of the president to the recent tragedy in Plateau State where 20 persons were killed by suspected herdsmen.
â€œThe issues of health and security are not issues to play politics with but issues we should put our heads together so that the country can progress. We commend your efforts on security and agriculture.
â€œA few days ago, just when we thought peace had returned to the Plateau, it was truncated with the attack on Ancha village in Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State, leading to 20 deaths,â€ he said.
He commended Buhari for ordering the security agencies to fish out perpetrators of the attack.
Also speaking on behalf of South-east traditional rulers, Eberechi Dike, said: â€œOur heart is full of joy that you are back. You shook our hands when you came in and that shows you believe in one Nigeria.
â€œWe prayed for you and you are back. We prayed for you because your agenda for Nigeria is good. As your children, when we cry, it is for you to ask us to stop crying and that you will fix whatever is making us cry like bad roads.â€
On behalf of North-east monarchs, the Lamido Adamawa, said Nigerians were happy to have the president back to the country.
â€œGod brought you back to Nigeria and we are all very happy. We will continue to pray for God to strengthen you more and give you the courage to continue to do more for the country,â€ he said.