President Muhammadu Buhari, on Monday directed the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun; the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma; and the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, to work with state governors to ensure the payment of outstanding Paris Club refund before the end of the year.
The President was said to have urged the governors to utilise the money to clear salary arrears they owed their workers before Christmas.
The governors had earlier received 50 per cent of the refund, leaving a balance of 50 per cent which Buhari directed its payment on Monday.
The President was said to have given the directive at a meeting he had with state governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to information posted on one of the Presidency’s Twitter handles – @NGRPresident – the meeting featured discussions on the nation’s economy, workers’ welfare, as well as federal-state relations, among others.
“President @MBuhari has directed the Ministers of @FinMinNigeria and Budget & National Planning and Governor @cenbank to commence negotiations with the Governors’ Forum to enable payment of outstanding Paris & London Club refunds before the end of the year,” the information read.
The Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, and the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, confirmed the development to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
Okorocha said the President, at the meeting, expressed the need to ensure that every Nigerian, especially workers, had a beautiful Christmas.
He stated, “We are looking at getting the balance of Paris Club refund.
“We also made a request for Mr. President’s approval that the balance should form part of our 2018 budgets because we can’t do anything until we are sure that the money is coming.
“The issue of workers took the centre stage and Mr. President expressed concern about those who depend on their salaries to feed their families and pay their house rents and he had the assurance from the governors that we will meet up our obligations.
“Also, it was emphasised that states and Federal Government must work together to get Nigeria out of its present economic predicament.”
When asked specifically if all state governors owing salaries would clear the arrears before Christmas, Okorocha said, “Yes; with the Paris Club refund coming, every worker should enjoy their Christmas.”
He added that the governors also seized the opportunity of the meeting to review their relationship with the President, adding that they found out that they were in harmony.
“There is no difference between us and the President. Everybody seems to be happy working together. But particularly, we commended the President for getting Nigeria out of recession within such a short time,” he added.
El-Rufai also confirmed that Buhari approved the payment of the balance of 50 per cent refund before Christmas to cater for workers.
He, however, said he did not know the amount of the refund, stressing that only the Ministry of Finance could provide the figure.
“There is another 50 per cent that needs to be paid when the figures are reconciled. The reconciliation is going to be concluded before the end of the year.
“The Chief of Staff to the President will ensure that the committee working on the reconciliation conclude the work before the end of the year.
“So, what the governors are requesting from the President is a directive, ‘go ahead to include the next 50 per cent in your 2018 budget,’ and that is going to be looked at.
“Every state will get its own share of the Paris Club refund. Every state has a specific amount that was deducted. That amount may be enough to cover the arrears and it may not be because you cannot get more than you are entitled to.
“My state has no salary arrears at all. So, whatever we are getting, we will just continue with our development projects.
“Some states have salary arrears that are bigger than the Paris Club refund they are getting. Even when they get it, they will not be able to clear the salary arrears. But it is better to reduce it so that people will have a happy Christmas than nothing.”