Buhari orders govs, clear salary arrears before Christmas

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday directed the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma; and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to work with state governors to ensure the payment of outstanding Paris Club refund before the end of the year.

The President was said to have urged the governors to utilise the money to clear salary arrears they owed their workers before Christmas.

The governors had earlier received 50 per cent of the refund, leaving a balance of 50 per cent which Buhari directed its payment on Monday.

The President was said to have given the directive at a meeting he had with state governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

According to information posted on one of the Presidency’s Twitter handles – @NGRPresident – the meeting featured discussions on the nation’s economy, workers’ welfare, as well as federal-state relations, among others.

“President @MBuhari has directed the Ministers of @FinMinNigeria and Budget & National Planning and Governor @cenbank to commence negotiations with the Governors’ Forum to enable payment of outstanding Paris & London Club refunds before the end of the year,” the information read.

The Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, and the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, confirmed the development to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.

Okorocha said the President, at the meeting, expressed the need to ensure that every Nigerian, especially workers, had a beautiful Christmas.

He stated, “We are looking at getting the balance of Paris Club refund.

“We also made a request for Mr. President’s approval that the balance should form part of our 2018 budgets because we can’t do anything until we are sure that the money is coming.

“The issue of workers took the centre stage and Mr. President expressed concern about those who depend on their salaries to feed their families and pay their house rents and he had the assurance from the governors that we will meet up our obligations.

“Also, it was emphasised that states and Federal Government must work together to get Nigeria out of its present economic predicament.”

When asked specifically if all state governors owing salaries would clear the arrears before Christmas, Okorocha said, “Yes; with the Paris Club refund coming, every worker should enjoy their Christmas.”

He added that the governors also seized the opportunity of the meeting to review their relationship with the President, adding that they found out that they were in harmony.

“There is no difference between us and the President. Everybody seems to be happy working together. But particularly, we commended the President for getting Nigeria out of recession within such a short time,” he added.

El-Rufai also confirmed that Buhari approved the payment of the balance of 50 per cent refund before Christmas to cater for workers.

He, however, said he did not know the amount of the refund, stressing that only the Ministry of Finance could provide the figure.

“There is another 50 per cent that needs to be paid when the figures are reconciled. The reconciliation is going to be concluded before the end of the year.

“The Chief of Staff to the President will ensure that the committee working on the reconciliation conclude the work before the end of the year.

“So, what the governors are requesting from the President is a directive, ‘go ahead to include the next 50 per cent in your 2018 budget,’ and that is going to be looked at.

“Every state will get its own share of the Paris Club refund. Every state has a specific amount that was deducted. That amount may be enough to cover the arrears and it may not be because you cannot get more than you are entitled to.

“My state has no salary arrears at all. So, whatever we are getting, we will just continue with our development projects.

“Some states have salary arrears that are bigger than the Paris Club refund they are getting. Even when they get it, they will not be able to clear the salary arrears. But it is better to reduce it so that people will have a happy Christmas than nothing.”

Conditions for payment

Earlier, Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the President gave conditions for the payment of the outstanding Paris Club refund to states.

Shehu, in a statement on Monday, said Buhari stated that he was not averse to the payment as far as the treasury could afford it and the economy would not be destabilised.

Shehu said the President had directed his key officials to sit down with representatives of Nigeria Governors’ Forum to determine how much of their unpaid debts could be released to them before Christmas.

He said, “The President gave the directive while responding to pleas by the governors who met him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, asking that he gives a commitment to pay all outstanding debts owed them from London and Paris Club deductions to ease their financial hardships.”

He said the governors informed the President that they wanted his commitment on the repayment so that they could factor the money into their 2018 budgets.

The statement quoted Buhari as saying, “I 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 sit with them.

“This should be done, not only for next year’s budget, but for this Christmas.  The Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank should sit with you to see how much can be released before Christmas.

“For Nigerians without sources other than their salaries, 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 at Christmas.”

The statement added that the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, four other governors – El-Rufai, Ra’uf Aregbosola (Osun), Udom  Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom State) and  Okorocha took turns to commend Buhari for caring for states and workers’ welfare.

Only wicked govs will shun Buhari’s plea –NLC

The Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday said only wicked governors would fail to heed the directive of the President that salary arrears should be paid before Christmas.

It said state governors had a moral obligation to pay workers’ salary and pension arrears before Christmas.

The union stated that it did not expect any governor to shirk his responsibility to workers after receiving the final chunk of the Paris Club refund as directed by the President.

The NLC Secretary-General, Dr Peter Ozo-Eson, who spoke with one of our correspondents on the plea of the President to the governors, added that states should pay the workers their entitlements.

He urged the President to also bring his moral authority to bear on the governors to do the right thing.

He noted that the previous refund was not utilised for the purpose it was meant, adding that only a few states paid their workers.

He said, “It would be really wicked of any governor to want to allow workers to go into the festive period without paying the arrears owed them.

“Now that the final chunk of the Paris club refund will be released, I think the governors have a moral obligation to ensure that they dutifully apply the fund to paying the backlogs of debts they owed workers.”

‘FG should increase states’ monthly allocations’

The South-East/South-South Governors’ Forum has asked the Federal Government to increase states’ monthly allocations.

The governors said this was necessary because of increase in global oil prices and increase in the sale of crude oil, which had seen the country earn above what it earned during the period of low oil prices and poor oil production.

According to a statement on Monday, the Akwa Ibom State Governor and Chairman, South-East/South-South Governors’ Forum, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, said this on Sunday during a meeting of the regions’ governors in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.

The governor said, “While our collective resolve for an indivisible and indissoluble Nigeria remains a cherished principle, we wish to appeal to the Federal Government to demonstrate transparency in the area of allocation of resources to different parts of the country.

“It is indeed worrisome that allocations from the Federation Account do not seem to reflect the increase in crude oil production and pricing.

“If our people suffered on account of the slump in global oil prices, the rise in the prices should result in improved monthly allocations to the states to enable the governors to meet the yearnings and expectations of their people.”

The body also called on the Federal Government to hand over all federal roads to the states where they are located and enact a law to facilitate the handover.


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