State governments will in no distant future receive the third tranche of the Paris Club loan refunds.
The National Economic Council (NEC) is expected to give the go ahead for the release of the refunds at its next meeting, The Nation gathered yesterday.
The exact day the meeting will come up was unknown last night.
Much of the money, like the earlier refunds, is expected to be spent in settling accumulated salaries and pensions/gratuities.
NEC is headed by the Vice President and has state governors, the Central Bank Governor and other key economic players as members.
Ahead of the meeting, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) wants President Muhammadu Buhari to go beyond lamenting the plight of workers in the various states following the non-payment of salaries in some of the states despite the release of the two earlier Paris Club loan refunds.
NLC President, Ayuba Waba, said Buhari should order the law enforcement agencies to probe the use to which the governors put the funds.
Buhari, meeting with a delegation of the governors earlier in the week, wondered how some of them were able to sleep at a time they could not pay their workers who end up unable to meet their financial obligations to their families.
The governors’ delegation at the meeting asked for the release of the balance of the refunds.
Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State said on Wednesday that the fact that the governors met Buhari to ask for the money did not mean they were begging for anything.
“Don’t forget, this is money that belongs to us,” he told reporters in Abuja. “We are not begging for anything, but demanding what belongs to us, and that it should be paid to us.”
Sources told The Nation yesterday that the release of the next tranche of the refunds is likely to come with conditions to ensure that workers’ plight is reduced.
One source said the states “have to show commitment to using the funds for the purposes they are meant.”
There are allegations that some of the state governors diverted the money to other areas.
The result is that some states are still owing salaries and pensions/gratuities.
Speaking to The Nation in Abuja on the issue, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the states should give account of how they disbursed the previous releases made to them.
Wabba said the non-payment of salaries by some governors was not due to lack of funds but an indication of lack of good governance, accountability and transparency.
He said: “It is unfortunate that despite the Paris Club refunds given to the states, some of them have not justified the utilization of the funds.
“Before the last tranche was given, there was a template and a commitment by the governors to utilise the money to try and defray these liabilities.
“Going forward, I think the Federal Ministry of Finance should look at whether those commitments that were made have been fulfilled.
“Part of the way forward also is to try and institute good governance, transparency and accountability at all levels.
“Once we have that, those problems can be addressed because it has proven very clearly that the non-payment of salaries, pension and liabilities of workers is not specifically about lack of resources; it is also about priority and commitment to doing what is obvious.
“From our analogy, we have seen states with little resources paying as and when due and they don’t have problems. Yet, there are states that are receiving as much as possible and have liabilities.
“You can situate this within the context of what is happening in the country where our political elites spends fortunes on birthday alone and yet cannot lay salaries in their states.
“Therefore, I think that despite being a different tier of government, there is a way we can try and get those records because it is about transparency, accountability and getting your priorities right.
“We should try and do a process of verification to know whether or not, the commitment that was made earlier has been followed to the letter, and that should be the basis on which those funds can be released.
“Although strictly speaking, when you look at the present situation, there is the tendency for them to argue that it is their money and we must give them their money.
“But in the context of good governance, the Presidency has an overall responsibility to uphold the primary purpose of governance which is the security and welfare of the people.
“It is a constitutional provision that the primary purpose of governance is security and welfare of the people, and once you cannot take care of the security and welfare of the people, there will be social instability and a lot of other things can follow, such as extreme poverty which we are now trying to address.
However, Odilim Enwegbara, a development economist and financial expert has a different view of the situation.
He said:” the states are the federating units so they are quasi-independent of the federal government.
“For this reason, they are never accountable to the federal government or to federal lawmakers, but rather to their houses of assembly.”
Continuing, he said: “Since what they’re requesting from the president isn’t a federal loan, I can’t understand why they should have the federal government dictate to them how they should spend their money.
“Let their own state lawmakers with such mandate to scrutinise them be the ones coming up with how the governors should and on what the money should be spent on.”
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