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N516bn Paris refund: Labour teams up with EFCC, ICPC on probe

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress have written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission to probe the states, which defaulted in the first tranche of the N516bn Paris Club loan refund.

The TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, and the NLC General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, confirmed this to The PUNCH on Thursday, adding that the partnership between Labour and the anti-graft agencies would equally be important in the utilisation of the second tranche of the refund.

The labour centres had alleged that some state governments failed to use part of the money they got from the loan refund to pay salaries or to offset arrears of pension deductions.

The federal and state governments had, in December 2016, agreed that states should use 50 per cent of the refund to settle salary and pension arrears when the fund was released.

But the NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, had, in an interview on June 4, said more than 26 states benefited from the first tranche of the Paris Club refund, but lamented that about 10 states were still owing workers and pensioners.

“Many of the states have been diverting the bailout meant to pay outstanding salaries and pension to other things; and this is why we are in the present situation,” he had stated.

The Federal Ministry of Finance had, on Friday, published the allocation of the first tranche of N516.38bn reimbursement to the states.

From the statement by the finance ministry, the top five states are Rivers, N34.92bn; Delta, N27.6bn; Akwa Ibom, N25.98bn; Bayelsa, N24.89bn and Kano, N21.7bn.

These five are followed by Lagos, N16.74bn; Katsina, N16.4bn; Kaduna, N15.44bn; Borno, N14.68bn; Jigawa, N14.2bn; Imo, N14.01bn; Niger, N14.42bn; Bauchi, N13.75bn; Sokoto, N12.88bn; and Osun, N12.62bn.

Others are Cross River, N12.15bn; Anambra, N12.24bn; Edo, N12.18bn; Kebbi, N11.95bn; Kogi, N11.05bn; Abia, N11.43bn; Ogun, N11.47bn; and Plateau, N11.28bn.

Similarly, Yobe got N10.82bn; Zamfara, N10.88bn; Ebonyi, N9.01bn; Ekiti, N9.54bn; Enugu, N10.7bn; Gombe, N8.95bn; Nasarawa, N9.1bn; Oyo, N13.31bn; and Kwara, N10.24bn.

Others are Adamawa, N10.25bn; Benue, N13.7bn; Ondo, N14.01bn; Taraba, N9.32bn, and the Federal Capital Territory, N1.36bn.

The Director of Information in the finance ministry, Salisu Dambatta, who signed the statement, had said, “The funds were released to the state governments as part of the wider efforts to stimulate the economy and were specifically designed to support states in meeting salary and other obligations, thereby alleviating the challenges faced by workers.”

The TUC President, Kaigama, told our correspondent on Wednesday that the union had involved the EFCC and the ICPC to probe states which defaulted in using the disbursements to pay workers.

He said, “We have asked the ICPC and the EFCC to probe those states; we already called for their probe. The call we made to the EFCC and ICPC is not only for the first tranche, but subsequent tranches.

“The anti-graft agencies and the TUC have been interacting well on the probe.

“We are working with the Federal Government which directed that the fund be used first for the payment of arrears and pensions before the states do anything else. So if the states do anything else, it would be contrary to the directive.

“We have been liaising with the anti-corruption agencies to make sure that they follow these disbursements. We also ask our TUC state levels to monitor the disbursements.”

The NLC Secretary, Ozo-Eson, said, “We have involved the anti-corruption agencies. From the first bailout, we partnered the ICPC to monitor the funds and we expect this to continue. Our directive to the NLC state councils is to also monitor the funds and ensure that the payment of arrears of salaries and pensions take priority.”

It was learnt from an NLC source that some states, however, still had yet to clear about five months’ salaries owed their workers.

The Head of Media of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on Sunday, said he was not aware of the petitions from the labour unions to the agency as his office was not in charge of receiving petitions.

“I am not aware. You know my office does not receive petitions,” the commission’s spokesman stated.

The anti-graft agency had, however, in February, confirmed that it was investigating some governors as well as the accounts of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum in connection with the N516bn Paris Club loan refund to the states.

Some petitions had alleged that some of the state governors, using some consultants and proxies, diverted about N19bn from the refund to the NGF’s account.

 

By Punch

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