- Warns Govs against recklessness, impunity
- Says Nigeria’s woes worse now than 2nd Republic
A day after President Muhammadu Buhari declared that he inherited an empty treasure from the previous administration, he has asked Nigerians to prepare for an era of hardship.
In his estimation, the envisaged tough dispensation may last for three months. By implication, Nigerians may begin to heave a sigh of relief from his administration by end of August or September this year.
The President unveiled the austere dispensation yesterday at the State House during his maiden meeting with the 36 state governors of the federation since his inauguration on May 29.
Buhari told the governors that he would spend the next three months recovering funds looted under the immediate past administration of Goodluck Jonathan, adding that the period will be tough for Nigerians, economically.
“There are financial and administrative instructions in every government parastatal and agency. But all these were thrown to the dogs in the past. Honestly, our problems are great, but we will do our best to surmount them.
“The next three months may be hard, but billions of dollars can be recovered, and we will do our best,” the President stated.
He warned the 34 governors and two deputy governors who represented their bosses at the meeting that impunity, lack of accountability and fiscal recklessness would not be tolerated by his administration.
According to his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, Buhari “vowed that funds stolen by government officials in the recent past will be recovered and systemic leakages blocked.”
Buhari, who was then Major-General, had joined other officers to topple the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983 over allegations of mismanagement and corruption.
He told the governors that the recklessness under Jonathan was worse than that of Shagari.
The President said: “We will try and put the system back into the right position. What happened in the Second Republic has apparently happened again, and even worse, but we will restore sanity to the system.”
He expressed surprise that the governors had tolerated the atrocities allegedly committed with the Excess Crude Account since 2011 till date when his predecessor held sway and promised to tackle the issue decisively.
The President declared that the payment of national revenue into any account other than the Federation Account was an abuse of the Constitution, adding that what he heard was going on in many agencies and corporations, particularly the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was clearly illegal.
On the monies spent on federal projects by some state governments, President Buhari assured the governors that the Federal Government would refund them, but insisted that due process must be followed.
The President promised special assistance for the three North-Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe which are affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He also said that a comprehensive statement on the economic and financial situation inherited by his administration will be made public within the next four weeks.
On an immediate lifeline for states owing salaries for several months, President Buhari said that a committee headed by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, would look at the Excess Crude Account and see what can be shared immediately.
Adesina disclosed that the states’ chief executives led by Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, had presented a wish list to the President which included obedience of extant Supreme Court ruling that all monies go into the Consolidated Revenue Account; an order from the President that all revenue-generating agencies must pay into the Consolidated Revenue Account; review of the Revenue Allocation formula; refund of the monies expended by states on federal projects; a special consideration for the three states of the North-East under Boko Haram infestation; and full details of the amounts that accrued into the Excess Crude Account from 2011, and how the money miraculously shrank without official sharing.
Briefing State House correspondents, Yari said the governors presented the situation in their respective states to the President and got a promise from him to do something soon.
“The President, before he was inaugurated, was aware that some of the states were in critical situation as regards payment of workers’ salaries because of the dwindling resources due to the drop of oil prices and other critical areas of the economy.
“So, we met the President and we shared knowledge from what was gathered from the Transition Management Committee, the findings and what is on ground. We also briefed him on the condition of our states, and we all appreciated that something has to be done and going forward, we are going to ensure that most of the states and the Federal Government that have not paid salaries, that something will be on ground in the next couple days.
“We also discussed the issue of frontline states as regards insurgency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. The President briefed us on his meeting with the G-7 leaders who have agreed to support the Nigerian government to fight the insurgency to the last.
“Also, it was noted that the insurgency has done so much damage to our infrastructure- schools, hospitals, and bridges. The President said he had put a committee in place to assess the situation and he had also made a commitment that he will not request money from any G-7 country but support to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure,” Yari who was flanked by his Bauchi (Mohammed Abubakar) and Abia (Okezie Ikpeazu) counterparts, said.
Corroborating the Presidential spokesman on the details of discussion at the meeting, Yari said:
“We proposed to Mr. President that instead of being given bailout, that the funds for jobs, projects that were done by the states should be refunded by the Federal Government. If the affected states are able to get the monies owed them, they can start paying salaries without any bailout. Second, we also brought to his notice that most of the loans owed by the states, some between four and seven years, if it can be stretched to 20 years, the states will be relieved and would continue with other businesses including paying salaries.
“Also, the first line charge that are paid by LNG, about $1.6billion, we requested that instead of paying to the Federal Government, we requested that it be paid to the Federation Account so that it could be shared among the three tiers of government, so that we can also get money to do one or two things.
“We further urged the President to follow the Constitution when it comes to money sharing, Section 80 is very clear. That all monies should go to the Consolidated Revenue Account…, no account should be kept anywhere because this is what the constitution says.
“And Section 162 also is explanatory, that whatever is going to happen to the money will be after sharing to the three tiers of government. That the NNPC or any other revenue-generating agency should not have the first line charges.
“So, Mr. President said there will be a few committees under the chairmanship of Mr. Vice President since the ministers are not in place so that they can discuss and move forward,” he said.
Reiterating governors’ argument against the idea of Sovereign Wealth Fund or Excess Crude Account, Yari contended that the management of the funds had been poor under the immediate past administration.
“Our argument in the past and why we did not agree with the Sovereign Wealth Fund is because we don’t know the manager. The question is who is the manager? Like the Excess Crude, who are the managers? Each state and local government has account in the Excess Crude Account but who are the managers?
“The Federal Government is taking about 56 percent while states and local government areas are taking 44 percent but the Federal Government is the manager of these accounts and where your money is being kept and you cannot ask questions.
“For instance, before our forum was divided, we left $10.3billion in the Excess Crude Account and we expected it to grow but as reported in our last meeting, the account is now $2.6billion and the sharing has been stopped since May 2013; no kobo has been given to any state or local government. So, under which platform will you save the money? To save the money is good. No matter how beautiful it is, if it does not have the backing of the constitution, it is illegal,” he asserted.
The meeting which, started at exactly 10.10am with the arrival of the President, was held at the Council Chambers of the State House.
Among the governors in attendance were Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Ifeanyi Okowa ( Delta), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Capt Idris Wada (Kogi), Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Muhammad Badaru (Jigawa).
Others were: Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo) Willie Obiano (Anambra), Aminu Waziri Tambuwal (Sokoto), David Umahi (Ebonyi) Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Jubrilla Bindow (Adamawa), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom ) and Ibrahim
Geidam (Yobe). Plateau and Bayelsa States were represented by their deputy governors.