GOVERNORS SHOVE BAILOUT, WANT FG TO PAY DEBTS OWED STATES

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• NGF fails to agree on ECA, missing $20bn 
• PDP govs protest relocation of Rivers, Taraba, A’Ibom tribunals to Abuja 
• NBS: 23 states generated N586.6bn IGR in 2014
After the botched election that split the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) two years ago, a reunited forum of governors of the 36 states of the federation rose from a meeting in Abuja wednesday, resolving to meet President Muhammadu Buhari on the financial crisis crippling the states and has impeded their ability to pay workers’ salaries and meet other obligations.
Also, the governors congratulated the newly elected Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, pledging cooperation with the National Assembly.
According to the Chairman of the NGF, Abdulazeez Yari, who was also confirmed at the meeting as the leader of the forum, the governors viewed the financial crisis crippling the states as a national issue, noting that there are federal government agencies that also owe salaries of workers for seven to eight months.
Yari said: “We decided not to talk of the bailout directly, though the problem we observe is not only a state matter; it is a national matter. Workers of some of the federal agencies are being owed for seven months and above.
“The federal government cannot do it alone because of the dwindling state of the economy. So instead of requesting for the bailout, we have to make sure that the federal government has liquidity.
“Besides, it is sending a very wrong signal that the states are asking for a bailout and we all know that the economy of the country is in a very bad shape.
“So instead of sending a wrong signal and aware of the implications, we are asking the federal government to pay the states for the federal government jobs that have been executed by the states.
“The federal government owes some states up to N10 billion, N20 billion, N30 billion and Lagos State, N50 billion for federal jobs executed. So we would be asking the federal government to settle the backlog owed to the states.
“If we can get back some of these monies, we will be able to settle some of the backlog of wages and salaries. It is on this that the governors would be meeting the president very soon.”
However, the NGF failed to disclose the quantum of the debt that the federal government owes the states for the federal projects they had executed, the nature of the debt and how it came about, and if there was an agreement in place between the states and the federal government acknowledging the indebtedness of the latter.
On the status of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and the alleged missing $20 billion from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the governors said they were not in agreement with the procedure to be followed on both issues.
While some of the governors called for an outright probe, others called for caution, stating that they should study the reports from the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI) and NNPC before taking a position.
Reading the communiqué from their meeting, Yari said the forum confirmed him as the chairman, congratulated the new leadership of the National Assembly and pledged to cooperate with the legislature.
He further said that the governors sympathised with the people and government of states affected by the insurgency in the North-east and are committed to assisting the affected states in the process of rebuilding, restructuring and rehabilitation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and infrastructure development.
He said that the forum plans to hold a retreat on how states can become more viable and identify means of improving governance, and pledged to cooperate with Buhari on how to move the country forward.
The forum congratulated Muslims on the holy month of Ramadan, urging them to use the month to pray for the peace and stability of Nigeria.
In a related development, the Peoples Democratic Party’s Governors’ Forum (PDPGF) has kicked against the relocation of Rivers, Taraba and Akwa Ibom States’ election petition tribunals to Abuja.
This is even as the Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, has emerged the Chairman of PDPGF.
The emergence of Mimiko was the fallout of the meeting held by the governors Tuesday night that spilled over to yesterday morning in Abuja.
Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting, Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, said the opposition governors condemned in very strong terms the relocation of election tribunals from Rivers, Taraba and Akwa Ibom States to Abuja.
He added: “The PDP Governors’ Forum unanimously elected Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State as Chairman of the forum.”
The forum also congratulated Buhari on his election as the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
“We also commend and salute our former president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for his display of peaceful disposition in the 2015 general election, which has stabilised our political landscape.
“We equally congratulate Senator Bukola Saraki, Hon. Yakubu Dogara and Hon. Suleiman on their emergence as the Senate President, Speaker and Deputy Speaker, respectively.
“We specially congratulate our own senator, Ike Ekweremadu, on his emergence as Deputy Senate President,” PDPGF said.
Also speaking, Mimiko said the PDP governors would engage the presidency and ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in a very “constructive manner”.
“We have also agreed to create formal and informal mechanisms of peer review, all for the development of our nation,” he said.
Governors in attendance were Mimiko, Capt. Idris Wada (Kogi), Ikpeazu, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba).
The deputy governor of Bayelsa State, Rear Admiral John Jonah, represented the state governor at the meeting.
Meanwhile, as the states fashion out measures to pay the salaries of their workers, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has released data showing that 23 states of the federation raised N586.6 billion as internally generated revenue (IGR) in 2014.
Lagos State registered the highest IGR of N276.1 billion, representing a 28.1 per cent decrease from the N384.2 billion it recorded the previous year.
According to the data on the IGR of affected states for 2014, which was released yesterday, Lagos State accounted for 47 per cent of the total revenue.
The report also showed that Rivers State raised N89.1 billion as IGR, representing a decline of N1.19 billion compared to N87.91 billion it generated in 2013.
Others include Akwa Ibom with N15.6 billion; Anambra N10.4 billion; Bayelsa N10.9 billion; Enugu N19.2 billion; Katsina N6.2 billion; and Kogi N6.5 billion.
Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Imo States recorded N3.4 billion, N8.5 billion, N16.3 billion and N8.1 billion, respectively, as IGR for the period in review.
Others are Niger N5.7 billion, Plateau N8.2 billion, Zamfara N3.1 billion, Delta N42.8 billion and Benue N8.2 billion.
Also captured in the updated IGR analysis were Bauchi N4.8 billion, Kaduna N12.7 billion, Katsina N6.2 billion, Kebbi N3.8 billion, Nasarawa N4.05 billion, Ogun N17.4 billion, Plateau N8.2 billion, Sokoto N5.6 billion and Zamfara N3.1 billion.
The IGR data from the 13 remaining states was still being expected, said NBS.
-Thisday

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