Governors of the 36 states of the Federation have said they may not be able to pay off all arrears owed workers by Christmas, as there is no directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to that effect.
This was contained in a statement from the office of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), yesterday.
Before president Buhari left for the EU-AU summit in Cote d’Ivoire on Monday, he reportedly directed the Finance Ministry to release the balance of the Paris Club debt refund to the governors and expressly directed that it should be deployed to clearing arrears of workers’ salaries and allowances so that they have something to celebrate the Yule tide with.
According to the NGF statement, the presidential directive was issued at a meeting between the governors and the president, which was held at the Aso Rock Villa, on Monday.
“The governors had expressed profound gratitude to the President for his magnanimity in hearkening to the needs of the states and understanding with them towards helping to solve some of the intractable financial problems of governance, top among which is the lingering problem of workers’ salaries.
“They pledged, therefore, to rise up to the occasion collectively, as a mark of their respect for President Muhammadu Buhari and empathy for the workers by paying before Christmas, once the Finance, the Budget and Planning Ministries and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) disburse the monies owed them, as instructed,” it stated
The governors recalled that the president had remarked that, “I will not be saying much because the responsible ministers are here: Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank of Nigeria. I request you to appoint your own team to come and sit down with them (referring to the governors).
“This should be done, not only for next year’s budget but for this Christmas. The Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank should sit down with you in a sub-committee to see how much can be released before Christmas,” the President instructed.
The governors said no mention of ‘all workers arrears’, was ever made, by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“For Nigerians without sources other than their salary, I am concerned that workers should be able to pay rent, school fees, buy drugs and take care of their families. I am so much concerned that people should have something to eat for Christmas, President Buhari declared.
“The governors had appealed to the president to once again authorise the Finance ministry and the other officials to hasten the payment of the remainder of the Paris and London Club loan refunds as they had factored the monies into their 2018 budgets.
“President Buhari’s instruction that the money be paid before Christmas however draws its background from the series of delays in the previous disbursements to the states by the Finance Ministry, which by commission or omission had exacerbated and indeed increased the number of months that workers are owe d salaries.
“For example, the first bailout that President Buhari approve d was not paid until October, four months after the president had given approval for the money to be paid. It was the same practice with the first tranche of the Paris-London Club repayment, which was approved in mid 2016 but took until December 2016 to hit the states’ accounts. It is imperative to add that the Paris–London funds were legitimate funds of the states and not loans as several sources had thought.
“Barring any such happenstances, however, governors, who are equally very worried about their workers’ plights, are ready to wipe away workers tears by paying their emoluments before Christmas,” it stated