Fred Itua, Ndubuisi Orji and Kenneth Udeh, Abuja
Barely one month to the gubernatorial election in Kogi, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the refund of N10.069 billion to the state being sums spent on repairs of federal roads.
The president had written to the Senate to approve the release of the funds in line with constitutional requirement.
The request was contained in a letter dated October 10, read by Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, during plenary, yesterday.
Lawan said Buhari’s request would allow the Federal Government offset debts and contractual obligations incured by Kogi government on federal projects.
Buhari said 24 out of 25 states had received approvals from the National Assembly for the refund on projects executed on behalf of the Federal Government.
He said N10.069 billion was the outstanding amount due to Kogi, and that the state was yet to receive a refund for projects it did for the central government.
Part of the letter read: “The Senate may wish to note that subsequent to resolutions of the National Assembly approving the refunds to the 24 state governments, the Federal Government has issued ‘promissory notes’ to all approved states for the settlement of their claims. Accordingly, the Senate is hereby requested to kindly approve, the Issuance of a Promissory Note in the sum of N10, 069,692,410.15 as refund to Kogi state for projects executed on behalf of the Federal government.”
Lawan referred President Buhari’s request to the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, headed by Clifford Ordia for further deliberations.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said it was scandalous for the the Presidency to be asking the National Assembly to approve the refund.
The party challenged President Buhari to provide evidence of projects executed by the governor. According to Ologbondiyan, President Buhari’s action is a confirmation that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in league with Bello to “strangulate” Kogi people.
“The PDP holds that if there are no intentions of pushing the fund to Governor Bello for anti-people purposes, the Presidency is challenged to name and point to the particular projects executed by the governor as well as make the terms and payment agreements public for Nigerians to see
“If the Buhari Presidency means well for Kogi, it should reword its request and put the interest of the masses ahead of selfish and parochial political considerations, particularly as the state approaches a critical election in which the people have made up their minds to vote out Governor Bello
“Mr. President cannot claim to be unaware of the critical situation of workers in Kogi; he cannot claim to be unaware that workers in the state are being owed, in some cases up to 36 months. Retirees and seniors are dying over non payments of their pensions after giving the best of their lives in public service
“The PDP urges President Buhari to resist attempts by his handlers and Governor Bello to drag his Presidency into this shameful attempt to steal funds that ought to go to the suffering masses in Kogi state.”
The opposition party demanded that National Assembly launch investigation into “the alleged squandering of over N700 billion Kogi State funds by the Bello administration in the last four years.”
The party also called on financial watch organisations and indigenes of Kogi to be at alert and monitor all disbursement of funds by Governor Bello to stem diversion of funds for selfish purposes.