- Says states didn’t get bailout
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, has contradicted the Presidency’s position that the Excess Crude Account was intact, saying that President Muhammadu Buhari withdrew $200million from the Excess Crude Account, ECA last week, which was shared among the three tiers of government.
He also disclosed that contrary to the much-advertised bailout of the states by the Federal Government to enable them pay workers’ salaries, the state governments were only offered soft loans to clear their salary arrears.
Last week, the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, hailed the multi-pronged package approved by President Buhari which included the sharing by the Federal and State Governments of $1.7billion of the $2billion balance in the ECA; the sharing of about $2.1billion sourced from the Liquefied Natural Gas, LNG’s payment to the Federation Account and a Central Bank of Nigerian, CBN-packaged special intervention fund which will offer financing to the states, ranging between N250billion to N300billion, as a soft loan available to states to access for the purposes of paying backlog of salaries.
But the Presidency, through Buhari’s media aide, Mr. Femi Adesina, declared that the media houses’ report on the “liquidation” of the ECA were false, adding that the last National Economic Council, NEC meeting decided to leave the account intact for now.
“The measures approved by President Buhari definitely do not include drawing down the balance in the Excess Crude Account or the “liquidation” of the account as some media outlets have wrongly reported.
“No such decision has been taken or approved by President Buhari, and last week’s meeting of the National Economic Council clearly concluded that untouched at this time,” the statement concluded.
In an interaction with journalists at the weekend in Abakaliki, Governor Umahi denied any form of financial bailout from the Federal Government, saying it was a soft loan to be deducted in subsequent allocations to states.
The governor said that there was no need for states to borrow to pay salaries, stressing that if salaries were paid through loans, as given to states in disguise of bailout by FG, the problem would not end because the real problem had not be addressed.
Governor Umahi maintained that the money given to the states by President Buhari was a mere soft loan which would be deducted from next month’s allocation.
He said: “The allocation of last month was so small. The President took $200million from our excess crude oil account and shared to states. It was shared and the Federal Government got theirs. States and local governments as well got theirs. So, there was nothing like bailout.
“The Federal Government said that ‘we are willing to give you a loan to pay salaries. The moment the loan is given, we will begin to deduct it from your allocations.’
According to him, borrowing money to pay salaries is like digging a hole to fill a hole and argued that if enough time was not given to states to repay the money, the situation would not change.
Governor Umahi, who also visited former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta, Ogun State yesterday, said that the savings from the salary cut volunteered by some political office holders were not the solution to the current cash crunch facing many states of the Federation.
Umahi said such a makeshift measure which had become the fad amongst elected politicians in the current dispensation was not what Nigerians who elected them into office bargained for.
In a chat with newsmen shortly after his courtesy visit to the former president, Governor Umahi said such offer of reduction in the salaries of elected politicians would be too meagre to address the current financial problems in the states.
He stated that he would not jump on the bandwagon of volunteering a cut his salary because it was not the solution for the economic doldrums in the country.
Umahi said: “I hit the ground running from day one and I don’t believe in makeshift things. I also don’t believe in if you cut 50 percent of your salary, that is not where the issue is. I think it’s not the major issue.
“The major issue is to be honest to the people, it’s to deploy the resources God has given the people, don’t cheat them, don’t steal their money. What we take as political leaders, what is due to us is really very meagre. I earn about N600,000 a month; so if I cut it to 50 percent, that’s N300,000. That is not the kind of money the society is looking for. They are asking that whatever is due to us, we should give it to them and I believe in that,” Umahi said.
He noted that the dwindling prices of oil in the international market was a blessing in disguise to the country as it had compelled Nigeria to think seriously about tapping other natural resources and diversifying the economy.
Earlier, Obasanjo commended the governor and his predecessor for the peace that had continued to reign in the state.
Umahi also praised President Buhari for his non-partisan attitude towards all the state governors, irrespective of their political affiliation.
“We also came here to thank you for the manner and the ways you have been using the wisdom of God to assist in piloting the affairs of our nation. I thank you very greatly sir. I believe very strongly that what transpired during the election is actually the will of God. And we have the opportunity to right the wrongs.
“There is no administration that wouldn’t have some ills but the most important thing is the ability and the knowledge and wisdom to identify them like you just advised me here; all those good ones continue with them, the bad ones you can always right them. And so we thank you because you are always there for our nation, you are always there for our people and we thank God who has given you health and great wisdom to continue with this job,” Umahi said.