Thursday, April 28, 2016

Buhari: 24 States Can't Pay Salary Despite Bailout
By Isiaka Wakili
Nigeria Daily Trust
Apr 28 2016 6:21PM

President Muhammadu Buhari says he is greatly concerned that nearly two-third of 36 states of the fare still having difficulties with salary payments despite the bail-out funds provided to them by the Federal Government.

This is just as the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) has requested an 18-month deferment for deductions from debtor-states' allocations.

President Buhari yesterday met with the 36 state governors and told them that he was very disturbed by the hardship state government workers across the country and their families were facing due to the non-payment of salaries.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu quoted Buhari as assuring that in order to ameliorate the hardship, the Federal Government would strive to make more funds available to the states by expediting action on refunds due to them for the maintenance of federal roads and other expenses incurred on behalf of the Federal Government.

Buhari also said that he would establish an inter-ministerial committee to study a Fiscal Restructuring Plan for the Federation which was presented to him by the governors.

The president said that the committee would review the plan to improve the finances of state governments and make recommendations on how proposals in the plan should be dealt with by the Presidency, the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly through legislation.

He, however, urged the governors to understand that while he was ready to do all within his powers to help the states overcome their current financial challenges, the Federal Government also had funding problems of its own to contend with.

"You all know the problems we have found ourselves in. You have to bear with us," the president told the governors.

The presidential spokesman quoted the NGF Chairman, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and the Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who chaired the committee that worked on the Fiscal Restructuring Plan, as asking the Federal Government to do more to help the states financially.

The governors were said to have told Buhari that while they had resolved to take other measures to boost their internally-generated revenue, the implementation of the Fiscal Restructuring Plan would help them to deal with their funding problems on short, medium and long-term bases.

They were also quoted to have said that if the plan was adopted and implemented by the Federal Government, states would become more financially empowered to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities.

Addressing State House journalists after the meeting, Yari said the NGF was asking for 18-month moratorium of loan payment so that states could strategise.

"We are asking for 18 months moratorium before we can start paying so that we would able to strategise," Yari said.

It would be recalled that President Buhari had last week approved a one-month moratorium for debtor-states.

Yari also told journalists that the states wanted the debts owed them by the federal government paid.

"For the short term, we are looking at a situation whereby our debts that are hanging, 2005 right from Obasanjo’s exit of the Paris Club, some of the monies that were not paid so that the states that are having difficulties can get money from there," he said.

Yari said to develop the IGR is not overnight, but a long term programme that has to be planned.

"And also our services have exploded and there is nothing we can do about it because people are getting their daily bread from there and we cannot say we are going to cut salaries and wages. We have to find a solution otherwise we would keep going back and forth because the plan you had for $100 per barrel and now oil is selling for 28 and 31 dollars, you will not achieve anything. So,we have device a plan for short term, medium term and longterm. these are part of short term."

He said part of the medium term programme they were looking at was the revenue mobilization formula "in ensuring that resources which were due for the past 10 years to states will be made available to them after the National Assembly approval; while the agricultural and minining will
be a long term programme."

Yari added: "The committee that will be set up will have the vice president, minister of power, works and housing will be in that committee because he headed similar committee on revenue formula at the Nigeria Governors Forum in 2012/2013.

"At the same time, some states have committed their resources to some federal government projects like roads and airports. There is a committee that was set up to look into that, we are urging the committee to hasten and complete up their work and present to Mr. President so that states can get relief."

On the reported allegation by Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun that states are in financial crisis because the governors are not saving, Yari said: "states are only taking 26 percent whereas the federal government is taking 52 percent and you are asking us to save. The truth remains that the states are taking 26 percent and the federal government 52 percent, what are they doing with the money? We are not sovereign so how can we save?

"We are dealing with our different states economy which we are trying our best to fix. Most times, we are busy shouting that what is supposed to be given to us has not been given. For the past three years, we have been saying show us if the excess crude has been used judiciously or not. So, the question of saving or not does not arise."

On the demand by the Nigeria Labour Congress for N56,000 minimum wage, Yari said: "well, they are right because we agree what they are being paid is too small, but they must understand the situation the country is because from where we are deriving our resources from is now lower by 60 percent. So, how do we do the magic? But we are going to do our best."

He described loan restructuring and bailout as temporal measures, saying "Each state has a programme right from short to mid and long term which we presented to Mr. President and he graciously accepted and he plans to put a committee in place that would look at the matter starting with short term."

Yari also stated: "The meeting was about the economy . We deliberated amongst our colleagues and we did say we would pass our demands to the federal government to look at demands per state. States are the landlords, we own the land and the people. So, the economy of this country lies in the
state. Everything comes from the state, the oil, agricultural produce,
mining and people are in the states; while the federal government is in

"So, if any state has any issues and is known to Mr President, I doubt very much if he will be able to sleep with his two eyes closed. We are closer to the people and have many challenges in the states. Today (yesterday), we have received support from the Federal Government in terms of bailout, restructured our debts, giving us 15% of the Excess Crude Account for development.


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