President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday rhetorically demanded to know from state governors how they manage to sleep comfortably and luxuriously when workers in their various domains are being owed salaries for months.
“How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months. I actually wonder how the workers feed their families, pay their rents and even pay school fees for their children’’, Buhari was said to have asked the governors.
The president spoke when a delegation of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) met with him to demand for the release of the 50 per cent balance of the Paris Club refund to states.
Led by its chairman, Abdulazeez Yari who is also the governor of Zamfara State, the NGF delegation that met the president in Aso Villa had one representative each from the six geo-political zones of the country.
A statement by the special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, issued after the meeting with the governors quoted Buhari to have expressed concern on the growing complaints and agitations by workers in states over unpaid salaries and allowances, in spite of series of interventions by the federal government.
President Buhari, according to the statement, said the plight of workers in the states needs urgent attention as many could barely survive.
The president told the governors that two out of the three-pronged focus of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to secure the country and fight corruption had received some commendable reviews by the people.
He, however, regretted that the challenge in payment of salaries in states had taken a toll on the people.
“God has been merciful in hearing the prayers of his servants, so the rainy season has been good. You can ask the Kebbi State governor on this, and our enormous food importation bill has gone down’’, Adesina further quoted Buhari as saying.
He further noted that the president said the federal government and state executives would need to work closer together to ameliorate the situation of workers across the country.
The president said he had instructed all government agencies to comply with the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in order to ensure more transparency and prudence in accounting for the revenues of the government and the sharing of entitlements with states.
The statement further noted that the chairman of the NGF, in his remark, said the various interventions by the federal government, which include the bailouts, were judiciously utilized by the states, stressing that the governors inherited backlog of unpaid salaries and huge debts portfolios on assumption of office.
“We are concerned with the situation in our states, and we are trying our best to manage the resources’’, Yari was quoted to have said.
The NGF chairman noted that the bailout funds, and part of the fallout from the London-Paris Club that had been received by the states, were properly expended to alleviate the plight of workers, but more had to be done.
The statement said Yari commended the efforts of the president in improving the economy, assuring that the states would continue working with the federal government to improve the livelihood of workers and all Nigerians.
We Want Full Payment Of Paris Club Refund – Govs
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting with Buhari, Yari said the governors came to plead with the president as the father of the nation to see to it that the 50 per cent balance of the Paris Club refund is paid to the states not later than next month in order to enable them factor the money into their 2018 budgets.
According to Yari, the decision they came to relay to President Buhari was taken in the last meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC).
He also added that the governors had reached an accord with the president last year to pay them 50 per cent of the money first and pay the last half after an open reconciliation would have been completed.
He said, “We are here on behalf of the 36 states governors and this is a result of the collective decision to see the president after the National Economic Council meeting last month. Our mission here is simple; we are here to thank Mr President for his concern about the states’ economy and situation by giving us several supports ranging from bail out, restructuring our debt, London- Paris club exit payment.
“We also told him that we think that it was because of the decision he has taken that we got out of recession. You know that the 200 million citizens of Nigeria are residing in respective states. This support is going down to them, when you are taking the indices from the grassroots.
“We thanked the president for that and at the same time, as a father we said to him, ‘Mr President, you remember that in 2016, we presented to you the numbers of London and Paris exit funds which we agreed, and you directed we be paid 50% and 50% open reconciliation’.
“Reconciliation is on since 2016, we are hoping that both DMO, ministry of finance, AGF and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November; so therefore, we want to crave your indulgence so that we can factor the numbers in our 2018 budget so that we can use it for projects and other recurrent spending according to the specification given by our respective Houses of Assembly and that’s why we are here’.
“Mr President was prompt being that he has a representative in the National Economic Council- that is the vice president and Minister. We are going to work with the numbers. When he returns from his trip we are going to follow up this meeting with him so that we can conclude on what is going to be done next”, Yari concluded.
President Off To Turkey For D-8 Summit
Meanwhile, President Buhari will today depart for Istanbul, Turkey to participate in the ninth summit of the Developing 8 (D-8) on Friday, October 20, 2017.
According to a statement by his presidential spokseman, Femi Adesina, prior to the D-8 summit, President Buhari, at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, will participate in an official working visit to Ankara, the capital city.
In Ankara, Adesina said the president will have a tete-a-tete with his Turkish counterpart, while delegations from both countries will hold discussions in various fields, including defence cooperation, security, educational and migration issues.
He said the Nigerian leader will also visit the Grand National Assembly of the Republic of Turkey in Ankara where he will meet with the Speaker, Ismail Kahraman.
While in Istanbul, the Turkish commercial centre, the president’s spokesman added that President Buhari will use the occasion of the D-8 summit to bolster warm and growing ties across a broad range of areas of cooperation with leaders of the D8-member countries, namely Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey.
He said, “The Summit with the theme, ‘Expanding Opportunities through Cooperation’, will among other things, focus on cooperation in the areas of agriculture, trade, transport, energy and increased private sector participation among member-countries.
“During the ninth Summit of the D-8, which will also mark the 20th anniversary of the organisation established to improve the developing countries’ positions in the world economy, the President will highlight the significant show of confidence in Nigeria’s business environment and economy.
“He will also affirm Nigeria’s resolve to work with D-8 member-countries on many key areas, including peace and security, economy and trade.
“At the end of the Summit, the Heads of State and Government will adopt a Communiqué, also known as the ‘Istanbul Declaration’. The President will be accompanied on the trip by ministers, top government officials, including the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Hameed Ali”.
…Signs Petroleum Varsity Bill
President Buhari yesterday signed the bill establishing the University of Petroleum Resources in Effurun, Delta State into law, with a pledge that his administration will continue to support the socio-economic development of the Niger Delta region.
Giving the assurance at a brief ceremony in Aso Villa, the President said, “This administration is fully committed to supporting the Niger Delta in its endeavours to achieve socio-economic development”.
A statement by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Garba Shehu, noted that Buhari appealed to all communities in the region to strive for peace through dialogue in resolving all conflicts, not only among them, but also with business entities and the authorities.
With the signing of the bill into law, the path has been cleared for the establishment of the specialised university in the Niger Delta, charged with training and research in petroleum technologies.