Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Governors of the 36 states of the federation have asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Finance Ministry and the other officials to hasten the payment of the remaining Paris and London Club loan refunds as they had factored the monies into their 2018 budgets.
While pledging to work assiduously towards ensuring that they clear arrears of workersâ€™ emoluments before the commencement of the yuletide season, the governors complained that delays in the earlier disbursements to states had exacerbated and indeed increased the number of months that workers are owed salaries.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the Head, Media and Public Affairs at the Nigerian Governorsâ€™ Forum (NGF), Abulrazque B. barkindo, the governorsâ€™ forum said President Buhari had approved the setting up of committee to fast track the release of the Paris Club funds to states.
While lamenting the delays in funds disbursements, the governors said: â€œThe first bailout that President Buhari approved was not paid until October, four months after the president had given approval for the money to be paid.
â€œIt was the same practice with the first tranche of the Paris-London Club repayment, which was approved in mid 2016 but took until December 2016 to hit the statesâ€™ accounts. It is imperative to add that the Parisâ€“London funds were legitimate funds of the states and not loans as several sources had thought.â€
According to NGF, President Buhari advised during a meeting last Monday that governors should be paid what is due to their states to ensure that workers spend Christmas with money in their pockets and a smile on their faces.
â€œThe governors had expressed profound gratitude to the president for his magnanimity in hearkening to the needs of the states and understanding with them towards helping to solve some of the intractable financial problems of governance, top among which is the lingering problem of workersâ€™ salaries.
â€œThey pledged, therefore, to rise to the occasion collectively, as a mark of their respect for Buhari and empathy for the workers by paying before Christmas, once the Finance, the Budget and Planning Ministries and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disburse the monies owed them as instructed,â€ the statement said.
It quoted the president as having expressed his concern over the plight of workers who are owed months of salary arrears.
â€œI will not be saying much because the responsible ministers are here: Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank of Nigeria. I request you to appoint your own team to come and sit down with them (referring to the governors).
â€œThis should be done, not only for next yearâ€™s budget but for this Christmas. The Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank of Nigeria should sit down with you in a sub-committee to see how much can be released before Christmas,â€ the president instructed.
Buhari declared: â€œFor Nigerians without sources other than their salary, I am concerned that workers should be able to pay rent, school fees, buy drugs and take care of their families. I am so much concerned that people should have something to eat for Christmas.â€
â€œPresident Buhariâ€™s instruction that the money be paid before Christmas however draws its background from the series of delays in the previous disbursements to the states by the finance ministry, which by commission or omission had exacerbated and indeed increased the number of months that workers are owed salaries.â€