The Presidency and the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were sharply divided Tuesday over the sources of the N804.7 billion relief package being worked out to bail out many states from their unpaid salaries burden.
While the PDP said that a significant amount of the princely sum came from savings left by the out-gone administration of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the Presidency disagreed, arguing that the money came from proceeds of Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG).
Upon assumption of office on May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari said the departing PDP government left an empty treasury and pleaded with Nigerians for patience as they await urgent implementation of his change agenda.
The Presidency also refuted media reports that the presidential relief package was drawn from the Excess Crude Accounts (ECA), stressing that the ECA is intact.
This came as state governments, the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and some eminent Nigerians lauded President Muhammadu Buhari over the relief package, saying it will help boost the economy.
Buhari, APC should learn from PDP and save for the rainy day –PDP
Chief Olisa Metuh, PDP National Publicity Secretary, in a statement said that the bailout would go a long way in alleviating the suffering of Nigerian workers in various states of the Federation, most of whom have been without their wages for several months.
PDP noted that a significant amount of the bailout came from savings accumulated in the Excess Crude Account handed over to the Buhari administration by the past Jonathan-led administration.
“This development is in clear contradiction to the earlier impression given by President Buhari to Nigerians and the international community that they should not expect much from his administration in its first 100 days because according him, on assumption of office, he met a virtually empty treasury.
“We want to believe that given the President’s release of such huge amount, he may have realized that he was earlier misdirected on the actual financial state of the nation at the time he took over. In this regard, we expect the President, as a respected statesman to do the needful to correct that erroneous impression.
“Furthermore, we expect President Buhari’s APC administration as direct beneficiary of this savings initiated by past PDP administrations to appreciate the strategic importance of always saving for rainy days and as such, guarantee prudent and transparent management of the nation’s resources now under its care.”
Continuing, PDP urged members of the APC to put their house in order and stop distracting President Buhari by allowing him to settle down for the business of governance.
Metuh said: “The party therefore charged the APC as a party in government to put its house in order, desist from injecting confusion and distracting the President from settling down to form a government and face the enormous challenges of governance, especially the implementation of his long list of campaign promises to Nigerians.
“It said Nigerians are no longer interested in insults, tirades and propaganda, but in actions and policies that would move the nation forward, a stance the APC has failed to recognize.’’
Reacting to the PDP’s claims that a significant amount of the bailout fund came from the ECA left by former President Jonathan, the Presidency clarified that the fund was generated from proceeds paid in by NLNG.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said: “Let me say that no money was taken from the Excess Crude Account. I was present two weeks ago when the governors met with the President, one of them (governors) called his attention to the fact that he had heard that Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas, NLNG, had paid in some dividends to Nigeria.
“Let me also add that in the course of their courtesy visit last week, the board of NLNG announced to the President that they had made the payment. So in a similar way, the President was just informed about this money last week.”
Indeed, the Presidency had before the telephone chat with Malam Garba Shehu refuted some media reports that the presidential relief package was drawn from the ECA, stressing that the ECA remains intact.
It said that the bailout was drawn from the dividends realized from the proceeds of the Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG), a special intervention relief fund from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a debt restructuring deal by the Debt Management Office (DMO).
It will be recalled that the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) Ahmed Idris, on Monday told State House Correspondents that the three tiers of government were to share about $1.7 billion, equivalent of N391 billion.
But a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina Tuesday overruled Idris on the ECA.
The statement read thus: “Reports in sections of the media today that funds will be drawn from the Excess Crude Account for the relief package approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for states and local governments, are incorrect. For the purpose of greater clarity on the matter, the measures approved by President Buhari to deal with the problem of unpaid public sector salaries in many states are as follows:
*The sharing of the $2.1 billion dividend paid to the Federation Account by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG);
*A Central Bank-packaged special intervention fund that will offer financing to the states, ranging from N250 billion to N300 billion. This will be a soft loan available to states for the purposes of paying backlog of salaries; and
*A debt relief programme designed by the Debt Management Office which will help states restructure their commercial loans currently put at over N660 Billion, and extend the lifespan of such loans while reducing their debt-servicing expenditures.
“The measures approved by President Buhari definitely do not include drawing down the remaining balance in the Excess Crude Account or the “liquidation” of the account as some media outlets have wrongly reported. No such decision has been taken or approved by President Buhari, and last week’s meeting of the National Economic Council clearly concluded that the Excess Crude Account should be left untouched at this time.”
APC hails Buhari for ending workers’ misery
Reacting to the development, APC has hailed President Buhari for coming to the aid of the long-suffering Nigerian workers with a multi-billion-naira package that will not only ensure that all arrears of salaries owed by many states across the country are immediately paid, but will also make it easier for the states to meet their monthly salary obligations henceforth.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, APC’s National Publicity Secretary, in a statement in Abuja said the party was particularly delighted that the President has shown that he is truly the father of the nation by eschewing partisanship in approving the intervention fund for all the states, irrespective of which parties they belong to.
‘’We say this because when states were financially handicapped during the tenure of the last federal government, opposition states were hung out to dry why states belonging to the then ruling PDP got generous bailouts.’’
APC said by his action, President Buhari has practicalised his deep understanding of the essence of governance which, more than anything else, is about the well-being of the citizenry.
The party said worthy of note and commendation is the fact that the special intervention fund approved by President Buhari was packaged without any external borrowing, despite the paucity of funds occasioned by the fall in the price of crude oil and the unprecedented profligacy of the immediate past administration that dried out the pot of national resources.
It said so early in the life of his administration, President Buhari is walking his talk by showing that with prudence, financial discipline, plugging financial leakages and a deep sense of patriotism, even the nation’s dwindling resources can still be more effectively utilized for the benefit of Nigerians, rather than be looted by thieving public officials who abuse their offices.
Bailout commendable – Gov Dickson
Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State also hailed the President’s bailout decision. Through his Chief Press Secretary, Daniel Iworiso-Markson, he said: “The bailout to states by President Muhammadu Buhari is highly commendable. Bayelsa is also expecting its own share of the bailout funds to meet our outstanding obligations to pensioners and local government workers.
“As you know, Bayelsa State is not owing its workers, as it was the case with most states in the federation due to the sharp drop in oil revenue. But we welcome the bailout to enable us support the chairmen of the eight local government areas to clear the backlog of salaries owed local government workers and pensioners.”
It will lessen states’ debt burden – Gov Ahmed
In like manner, the Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, expressed confidence that the bailout for debtor states will lessen their debt burden or possibly eliminate it.
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr Muideen Akorede, Governor Ahmed also commended President Buhari for this gesture, describing him as a listening leader who cares about the welfare of his people.
Whatever comes to us will be judiciously utilized – Edo Govt
In Benin City, Edo State Government through the Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr Louis Odion, said the state will judiciously manage whatever funds accrue to it.
According to Odion, “This relief from the Federal Government will help the Comrade governor to deliver more to the people because we have ongoing projects and new ones. I can vow to you that whatever comes to the state will be judiciously used as usual.”
Govs must cut their excesses — Obada, Owie, Okpozo
Former Deputy Governor of the state, Rev. Peter Obadan, former Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Roland Owie and elder statesman, Senator Francis Okpozo reacted Tuesday.
Obadan said: “The governors must be more prudent in the financial management of their states and one must not fail to commend Governor Adams Oshiomhole because it was the expectation of many that Edo State will be listed among the states that are unable to pay salaries. But he has excelled.”
On his part, Senator Owie stated that “there is nothing wrong with the relief package. It is in order, provided it is a loan which will be refunded or be deducted from their allocations. A situation whereby you bail out a state owing 11 months’ salary and then bail out another state owing one month or two months and then you now say that money is free will encourage indiscipline in governance.”
Senator Okpozo said: “I know President Buhari will not allow wastage of public funds, but he should not forget that there are some governors who waste public funds unreasonably and he should help make sure that every penny made available to the governors is well monitored”.
Bailout well-timed –Gov Lalong
In Plateau, Governor Simon Lalong said the bailout is well-timed. Reacting to the issue, the Director of Press and Public Affairs to the governor, Mr. Emmanuel Nanle, in a statement said: “The President is very right in giving the bailout. The payment of the fund is simply the bailout which the governors asked for and you are aware that they asked for two things, the first was either for government to reimburse them for the value of works done on behalf of the Federal Government, particularly road constructions and the rest.”
Osun APC reacts
The APC in Osun State Tuesday thanked President Buhari for coming to the aid of all Nigerian workers.
According to the party’s Director of Publicity and Strategy, Mr Kunle Oyatomi, “The people of Nigeria and Osun in particular will forever remember this action of Buhari, which signals the possibility of a progressive future for the country”.
It’s welcome – Abia govt
The Abia State Government has described President Buhari’s release of funds to states to offset their salary arrears as “a welcome development”, saying it would go a long way in assisting the Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to stabilize his administration’s vision.
According to the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Mr. Ugochukwu Emezue, the money would help states bounce back into better financial position and give the governors some relief to pursue their programmes.
“For our own governor, being a prudent person, who has already cut his salary and allowances, he will utilize the funds very well. Already we have started paying salaries to the ministries, so with these added funds, it will go a long way to help the state.”
Don’t divert the funds – Ondo NLC warns govs
From Ondo, the state leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) warned governors not to divert the funds.
State NLC Chairman, Comrade Bosede Daramola said that any state governor who diverts the funds will incur the wrath of Nigerian workers.