From Tony Osauzo and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The controversy between Edo state governor Godwin Obaseki and the federal government over the governor’s claim that the government had printed money to fund monthly allocations from the federation account to states and local governments, continued Thursday with Obaseki daring the federal government to face economic realities and stop what he described as ‘monetary rascality.’
The governor, in a statement titled “Our advice is that we stop playing the Ostrich”, made available to newsmen in Benin, said the government should take urgent steps to prevent the economy from total collapse.
Rather than play the ostrich, we urge the government to take urgent steps to end the current monetary rascality, so as to prevent the prevailing economic challenge from degenerating further,’ he said.
The Edo governor was quoted as saying at the Edo transition committee stakeholders’ engagement last week that: ‘When we got FAAC for March, the federal government printed additional N50-N60 billion to top-up for us to share.
‘This April, we will go to Abuja and share. By the end of this year, our total borrowings are going to be within N15-N16 trillion.’
But the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, had explained that what is distributed at the monthly Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings were generated revenue from government institutions available to the public at the ministry’s website.
‘The issue that was raised by the Edo State Governor for me is very, very sad. Because it is not a fact. What we distribute at FAAC is a revenue that is generated and in fact distribution revenue is a public information. We publish revenue generated by FIRS, the customs and the NNPC and we distribute at FAAC. So, it is not true to say we printed money to distribute at FAAC, it is not true.
‘On the issue of the borrowing, the Nigerian debt is still within sustainable limit. What we need to do as I have said several times is to improve our revenue to enhance our capacity to service not only our debt but to service the needs of running government on day to day basis.
‘So, our debt currently at about 23% to GDP is at a very sustainable level. If you look at all the reports that you see from multilateral institutions,’ the minister said.
Read also: Obaseki’s claim of N60 billion printed for March federal allocation untrue, sad – Finance Minister
In a strong reaction to the minister’s comment, Governor Obaseki advised her to rally Nigerians to stem the obvious fiscal slide the country faces, adding that he did not want to join issues with the Federal Ministry of Finance.
‘While we do not want to join issues with the Federal Ministry of Finance, we believe it is our duty to offer useful advice for the benefit of our country,’ he said.
‘We believe it is imperative to approach the Nigerian project with all sense of responsibility and commitment and not to play to the gallery because, ultimately, time shall be the judge of us all.’