- We’ll refund expenditures on
federal roads, etc – President
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday at the State House Abuja held a closed door meeting with State Governors led by the Chairman, Nigeria Governor’s Forum and Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari.
The meeting which started at exactly 2pm took place inside the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa. Most of the state governors were in attendance while a few others were represented by their deputies. Also in attendance were Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun; and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele. However, Ekiti state Governor Ayodele Fayose, a major critic of Buhari was absent at the meeting.
It was gathered that the meeting discussed current economic crisis and herdsmen attacks in parts of the country, among other national issues. Specifically, it was learn the governors asked Buhari to take drastic action against the Fulani herdsmen and their sponsors and ensure no future occurrence will happen.
On the state of the economy especially the inability of states to meet their constitutional obligations to citizens including payment of salaries, the governors requested the President to approve the sharing of remaining funds in the excess crude account.
Hint to this was given by Gov. Yari yesterday morning after an earlier meeting of the NGF in Abuja. He told journalists that the Governors did not have any open options than to seek a short term solution to the problem. “The meeting was about the economy. You know we are in a very bad situation and we need to come together and discuss intensively about this economy because it is what is now giving the states headache and by extension the Federal Government.
“If you look carefully at this month’s federation account, It is the worst ever in the last six years. So, definitely we had to come to a round table. We were elected under different party platforms to perform, not just to pay salaries and it is worse off not to be able to pay salaries. So, the issue is very, very serious that we are coming back to discuss it and if we have the opportunity we will come back to see our leader, Mr President. Pressed to answer question on federal government bail-out plans, the governor said the issue was not listed for deliberations.
“We are not looking at that rather we are looking at permanent solutions to the problems that we are in now.” Also asked if diversification meant anything to him, he said: “Yes, we are discussing diversification but you should understand that it is a long term programme. We are looking for a short term formula for you to live at least survive before the long term.
‘On diversification we are looking on agriculture, which is supposed to be the major focus long time ago but has been neglected by the past administrations. “Now that we found ourselves in this situation, we are working harder to diversify the economy and to look forward to a more permanent solution in case oil goes out of existence but at the same time we have to look for a short term solution.” Also speaking on the matter, Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose said that the meeting reached some salient agreements.
“Well, the meeting was all about finding a lasting solution and deliberations went well. I am comfortable with the meeting. Everybody is concerned about the dwindling economy and we must as leaders of this country come together to find solution and I agree with all the positions. Why wouldn’t governors save? “Well, that is subjective every leader at one time or the other must have done their best within the ambit of availability of resources. So, for me every former President, every former leader had made their contribution and I commend them. The new people with saddled with leadership must continue to give their best”.
Analysts however expressed concern over the demand by the governors and its likely implication on the economy. According to them, “there seems to be no limit at which the 36 Governors of Nigerian States would go to have more funds in their coffers. Recall that at the beginning of the present administration in May, 2015, most of the governors were given funds otherwise called bailout funds from the federal treasury to enable them pay salaries and meet other exigencies in their respective States.
‘Only last week, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun announced that the federal government has graciously suspended deductions periodically made from various loans given to the states to enable them pay workers salaries and stability their respective economies. But those measures appear not to be sufficient as the governors are now asking for the sharing of $2.3 billion being Nigeria’s proceeds in the Excess Crude Account, ECA. Should this happen, Nigerians may be witnessing a repeat of a scenario that played out in former President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime where Governors shared $2billion from the $6.5 billion the government inherited from the late Umaru Yar’Adua’s administration” one of the analyst said.
Recently, former minister of finance, Dr. Okonjo Iweala said that the sharing of the funds was the dilemma of Jonathan’s government as the government lacked the political will to save for the rainy day, a situation that has plunged Nigeria into deep economic and financial quagmire.