‘Governors’ demand for more money, moratorium in order’



Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Ambode, has said that the decision of the state governors to seek an 18- month moratorium on debt repayment was a step towards ensuring that quality services are rendered to the people.

Ambode, who spoke during an interactive session with State House correspondents after he held a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, noted that the governors were not begging to be forgiven the principal debts being owed by states.

The Governor said there was nothing wrong in the governors’ request for more money and moratorium for debt repayment, saying he believes it would give the governors more time to not only plan to repay, but also have more resources to develop the states.

He said: “There is nothing wrong in asking for moratorium. Lagos State has just restructured its bond programme. It is about financial intelligence.

“Besides, the states are not saying they are not going to pay back. We are saying that, based on the present circumstances, we can hold down principal payments and just take interest.

“Maybe for a while, let us also ask for moratorium to be able to pay principal at a future date. The issue is that you cannot operate a state in the manner in which the financial inflows are coming now. It is very difficult. We have to be realistic.”

Ambode added: “It is like any other organisation. If the inflows are not up to what the fixed costs are like, you have to do something drastic and that is what we are all doing. Remember I am an accountant first before being a politician. You need to see the numbers. The numbers do not tally.

“It has nothing to do with the status you are finding yourself now. It is about the past record; it is about the present status and it is about taking drastic decisions to be able to allow the states to stay afloat.”

The Governor confirmed that Lagos was one of the states that benefitted from the recent state visit of the President Buhari to China, stressing that the outcome of the visit would help the state.

“You will recall that Lagos State is a major beneficiary of that visit. The Lagos metro rail project of about $2.5 billion is being signed up.
The Lagos-Kano rail project and other projects are also there. There are many benefits coming to Lagos State. That is why it is important to come and say thank you to Mr. President,” he said.

Reacting to the criticisms trailing the President’s trip to China, the Governor said it was normal for people occupying such an important office, arguing that the important thing is to ensure that majority of the people would derive maximum benefits from such.

He said: “There is nothing you do in form of policies and programmes and the people will not oppose. What is important is about the majority of people who are going to benefit from it. For Lagos, we cannot do any other thing than to say thank you to Mr. President.”

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