Buhari regrets hardship in states, to provide more funds

President Muhammadu Buhari speaking at an event at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. PHOTO: Philip Ojisua

President Muhammadu Buhari speaking at an event at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. PHOTO: Philip Ojisua

Govs seek 18-month moratorium on loan, increase in bailout funds

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed worry that nearly two-thirds of states of the federation are still having difficulties with salary payment despite the bail-out funds provided to them by the Federal Government.

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday expressed worry that nearly two-thirds of states of the federation are still having difficulties with salary payment despite the bail-out funds provided to them by the Federal Government.

At a meeting with the governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) at the Presidential Villa, Buhari said he was very disturbed by the hardship which state government workers across the country and their families were facing due to the non-payment of salaries.

A statement by one of the President’s spokesmen, Garba Shehu, quoted Buhari as telling the governors that to ameliorate the hardship being faced by the affected workers, 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.

But the Chairman of the NGF and Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari, in an interview with State House correspondents after the meeting, confirmed that the governors had presented some far-reaching recommendations to the Federal Government, suggesting some short, medium and long-term measures on how to ensure that the current financial crisis facing the states is averted in future.

The governors suggested an 18-month moratorium on loan, in addition to increase in the bailout funds to them as well as review of their shares from the excess crude accounts. All these, he said, would enable the governors to strategise. The demand for moratorium is against the backdrop of the Federal Government’s offer of one-month deferral of the deduction of the loans by state governments for the month of April.

Buhari also said that the Federal Government had decided to raise an inter-ministerial committee to study a fiscal restructuring plan for the federation which was presented to him by the governors.

According to him, the proposed 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.

Buhari urged the governors, however, 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 has funding problems of its own to contend with.
“You all know the problems we have found ourselves in. You have to bear with us,” he told them.

Yari and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who chaired the committee that worked on the fiscal restructuring plan, asked the Federal Government to do more to help the states financially.

The governors told the President 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 said that if the plan was adopted and implemented by the Federal Government, states would become more financially empowered to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities.

To develop the internally generated revenue (IGR) was not an exercise that could be carried out overnight, they said, warning that it was a long- term programme that would take a lot of time to plan. “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.

“You will agree with me that states are the landlords, we own the land and the people, therefore 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 Abuja.

“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.



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