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‘How do your workers feed their families?’ – Buhari asks governors, frowns at states’ inability to pay salaries …as governors request fresh bail-out

By Tony Edike on 18/10/2017

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President Muhammad Buhari
President Muhammad Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met with seven state governors at the banquet hall in Abuja.

The state governors in attendance were Zamfara State Abdulaziz Yari; Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu; Kwara State Abdulfatah Ahmed; Akwa Ibom Udom Emmanuel; and Bauchi State Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar.

Others were Kebbi State Abubakar Atiku Bagudu; Ebonyi State Deputy Governor Eric Kelechi Igwe.

The Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina were also in attendance.

At the meeting, Buhari expressed concern on the growing complaints and agitations by workers in states over unpaid salaries and allowances, in spite of interventions by the Federal Government.

“How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid their salaries for months”, Buhari told a meeting of select governors under the aegis of the Governors’ Forum in Abuja.

The governors were led by the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Abdul’Aziz Abubakar Yari.

President Buhari at the meeting at State House said the plight of workers in the states need urgent attention as many could barely survive.

“I actually wonder how the workers feed their families, pay their rents and even pay school fees for their children,’’ he said.

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, noting 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.’’

President Buhari 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.

In his remark, the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum 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,’’ he said.

Yari 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 NGF chairman 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.

Speaking to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting which lasted about two hours, Yari said the governors were in the Villa to thank the President for the previous bailouts as well as the Paris Club refund, which he said has helped them in meeting the obligations of their states.

He said, “We are here on behalf of the 36 state 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 state of the economy and for giving us several supports, ranging from bailout, restructuring our debts, Paris Club exit payment.

“We also told him that we think that it was because of his decision to grant us bailouts and pay the refund of the Paris Club loan that many Nigerians are criticising him; this is the reason why we got out of recession.”

The NGF chairman added, “We thank 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 Paris Club loan exit funds which we agreed, and you directed (that) we be paid 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent, upon reconciliation.

“Reconciliation has been on since 2016. We are hoping that both the Debt Management Office, Ministry of Finance, Attorney General of the Federation, and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November.

“So, we want to crave your indulgence so that we can factor the numbers into 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 the Minister of Finance is away. We are going to work on the numbers when he (Buhari) 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.”

Posted 18/10/2017 06:20:47 AM

 

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