By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, SOLOMON AYADO and AHURAKA ISAH, Abuja
The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) yesterday spurned media reports that President Muhammadu Buhari blasted governors over nonpayment of salaries.
Chairman of the forum and Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, debunked the said report, while addressing State House correspondents after a meeting of the forum on Wednesday night at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
LEADERSHIP Friday recalls that after a meeting with a delegation of the NGF on Tuesday, a statement by the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted Buhari as expressing concern about the growing complaints and agitations by workers in states over unpaid salaries and allowances, in spite of interventions by the federal government.
President Buhari, according to the statement, said the plight of workers in the states needed urgent attention, as many of them could barely survive.
“How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months. I actually wonder how the workers feed their families, pay their rents and even pay school fees for their children’’, Buhari was said to have told the governors.
But describing the media reports as unfortunate, Yari stated that the governors had a fruitful discussion with the president, who, he said, accepted all their requests.
According to him, the president said they should wait for the return of the minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, from the United States so that she, alongside the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, who is the chairman of NEC can brief him on the technical details of the Paris Club refund.
Yari said, “We briefed the members about our meeting with Mr President yesterday, which I’m surprised some of you turned upside down. You got the full briefing from me and then some of your people went and said they got from inside, I don’t know which inside that the president is not happy with the governors. It is very unfortunate.
“We had a very fruitful meeting with Mr President and Mr President accepted all our requests. The only thing Mr President said is that since he is not a technical person, we should wait for the minister of Finance to return, and the chairman of the National Economic Council to be around so that they can give him update and support on what he is going to say to us.
“So, he said we should reschedule this meeting until when he returns from Turkey. I think this is what I told the press yesterday but I wonder how they turn it around. Please we have to be serious with our job. This is Nigeria we are working for; we are working for our country, working for our people. So, we shouldn’t misinform the public and we should be guided with the things discussed”.
Governor Yari also disclosed that some states would soon be listed on the stock exchange so that they can raise bonds to finance some projects in their states.
His words: “We also received briefing from the Stock Exchange on how too address the issue of cash crunch on the nation. They spoke to us on the need to raise bonds. Globally, it is the borrowing from outside that you use for infrastructure and not the borrowing from within.
“So, the stock exchange has given us opportunity for some states that are ready to go into the stock exchange to raise bonds to finance some projects because what is tied to the bonds is our income and our income is shrinking.
“Through the bonds, we can finance projects that will impact on the water supply and sanitation etc. We are putting a committee in place made up of the members of the stock exchange as well as the NGF secretariat to work together on that”.
Senate To Probe Govs Over Paris Club Refunds, Bailout Funds Diversion
Meanwhile, the Senate said yesterday that it will unfailingly probe state governors over alleged diversion and misappropriation of the Paris Club refunds and bailout funds.
President Muhammadu Buhari had released the tranche of the funds to state governors to clear backlog of salaries owed workers.
But instead of utilising the funds for the purpose it was meant, some governors allegedly diverted the funds and are unable to give cogent explanations on the disbursement.
The resolve of the Senate to probe into how the funds were expended by state governors is hinged on the alarming non-payment of salaries and gratuities by states, a situation which has brought untold hardship to workers.
Yesterday in plenary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu (Imo East) raised a point of order seeking the leave of the Senate to move a motion to probe the governors.
Anyanwu queried the legality of how and why the funds were issued to state governors by President Buhari, hence the glaring issues of misappropriation.
However, Senate President Bukola Saraki, who presided over the session, threw the matter before the lawmakers on whether a motion to the effect be taken.
It was agreed and approved that Anyanwu bring a proper motion to the floor on another legislative day.
The federal government had released funds to the 36 states as refund of “over-deductions on Paris Club, London Club Logans and Multilateral debts on the accounts of states and local governments (1995-2002)”.
The latest is the second tranche of the refunds paid to the states with a total of N243.8 billion released to the 36 states.
President Buhari, while performing the ceremony, had urged the governors to use a major part of the funds to offset salaries, pensions and other allowances owed workers in their respective states.