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President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday lamented that despite the various interventions by the Federal Government, there were still complaints and agitations by workers over unpaid salaries and allowances by state governments.
He wondered how the unpaid workers had been managing to meet their needs.
Buhari made his position known while addressing a delegation of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, led by the forum’s chairman, Abdulaziz Yari, when they visited him in the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Yari had led Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State, representing the South-South; Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, representing the North-West; Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara State, representing the North-Central; Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State, Dr. Eric Igwe, representing the South-East; Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State, representing the North-East; and Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, representing the South-West, to a meeting with the President.
During the meeting the governors, through Yari, requested that the President ensure the release of the 50 per cent of the Paris Club loan refund so that the funds could be built into the 2018 budgets of the state governments.
The various interventions the current administration had extended to states included bailouts, Paris Club loan refund and budget support.
Some governors were alleged to have diverted part of the bailouts.
The President told the governors that the plight of workers in the states needed urgent attention as many 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 of their children,” he said.
Buhari told the governors that two out of the three-pronged focus of the ruling All Progressives Congress to secure the country and fight corruption had received some commendable reviews by the people, noting that the challenge in payment of salaries in states had taken a toll on the people.
“God has been merciful in hearing the prayers of his servants; so, the rainy season has been good. You can ask the Kebbi State governor on this, and our enormous food importation bill has gone down,” he said.
Buhari said the Federal Government and governors would need to work together to ameliorate the situation of workers across the country.
The President said he had instructed all government agencies to comply with the Treasury Single Account in order to ensure more transparency and prudence in accounting for the revenues of the government and the sharing of entitlements with states.
The statement quoted Yari as saying the various interventions by the Federal Government, which include the bailouts, were judiciously utilised by the states.
He stressed that the governors inherited backlog of unpaid salaries and huge debt portfolios on assumption of office.
“We are concerned with the situation in our states, and we are trying our best to manage the resources,” he said.
Yari noted that the bailouts, and part of the fallout from the London-Paris Club refund that had been received by the states, were properly expended to alleviate the plight of workers, but more had to be done.
The NGF chairman commended the efforts of the President in improving the economy, assuring him that the states would continue working with the Federal Government to improve the livelihood of workers and all Nigerians.
Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting which lasted about two hours, Yari said the governors were in the Villa to thank the President for the previous bailouts as well as the Paris Club refund, which he said has helped them in meeting the obligations of their states.
He said, “We are here on behalf of the 36 state governors and this is a result of the collective decision to see the President after the National Economic Council meeting last month.
“Our mission here is simple. We are here to thank Mr. President for his concern about the state of the economy and for giving us several supports, ranging from bailout, restructuring our debts, Paris Club exit payment.
“We also told him that we think that it was because of his decision to grant us bailouts and pay the refund of the Paris Club loan that many Nigerians are criticising him; this is the reason why we got out of recession.”
The NGF chairman added, “We thank the President for that and at the same time, as a father, we said to him Mr. President, you remember that in 2016, we presented to you the numbers of Paris Club loan exit funds which we agreed, and you directed (that) we be paid 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent, upon reconciliation.
“Reconciliation has been on since 2016. We are hoping that both the Debt Management Office, Ministry of Finance, Attorney General of the Federation, and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November.
“So, we want to crave your indulgence so that we can factor the numbers into our 2018 budget, so that we can use it for projects and other recurrent spending according to the specification given by our respective Houses of Assembly; and that’s why we are here.
“Mr. President was prompt being that he has a representative in the National Economic Council; that is the Vice-President, and the Minister of Finance is away. We are going to work on the numbers when he (Buhari) returns from his trip. We are going to follow up this meeting with him so that we can conclude on what is going to be done next.”