• Says Days Of Impunity, Fiscal Recklessness, Over
• Vows To Recover All Stolen Funds
• To Publish Nation’s Finances
• States Owe Workers N658b, Govs Reveal
As a follow up to Monday’s revelation of an empty treasury allegedly left behind by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, described the immediate past administration as worse in terms of impunity and corruption, than what was witnessed between 1979 and 1983.
Shehu Shagari served as Nigeria’s Second Republic President, after the handover of power by General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military government.
Shagari’s government was heavily plagued by corruption, a development which the military government alluded to as a major reason for staging a return to power.
Buhari had on Monday raised the alarm that the immediate past government emptied the treasury leaving almost nothing behind for him to run the affairs of the country.
On Tuesday, while meeting with governors, Buhari said it was unfortunate that the Jonathan administration allowed so much impunity and corruption to thrive.
He however promised to “try and put the system back into the right position. What happened in the second republic has apparently happened again, and even worse, but we will restore sanity to the system.”
The President vowed that funds stolen by government officials who abused their offices in the recent past would be recovered and systemic leakages stopped, warning government officials that with him in charge, the days of impunity, lack of accountability, and fiscal recklessness in the management of national resources are now over in Nigeria.
Buhari also told the governors: “There are financial and administrative instructions in every government parastatal and agency, but all these were thrown to the dogs in the past.
“Honestly, our problems are great, but we will do our best to surmount them. The next three months may be hard, but billions of dollars can be recovered, and we will do our best.”
He, however, expressed surprise that the governors stood by and tolerated the atrocities allegedly committed with the Excess Crude Account (ECA) since 2011.
With a promise to tackle this issue decisively, Buhari noted that the payment of national revenue into any account other than the Federation Account was an abuse of the Constitution.
He also declared that what he had heard about goings-on in many government agencies and corporations, particularly the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was “clearly illegal”.
The President vowed to publish, within the next four weeks, a comprehensive statement on the economic and financial situation inherited by his new administration.
Responding to the request by the governors for refund of monies spent on federal projects by state governments, Buhari assured that the Federal Government would pay, but insisted that due process must be followed.
The governors also begged for an immediate lifeline for states that owe salaries running into many months, following which the President raised a committee headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo to “look at the Excess Crude Account and see what can be shared immediately.”
The President equally promised special assistance for the three North Eastern states badly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The governors, led by Chairman of the Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, had presented Buhari with a wish list, including full details of monies that accrued into the ECA from 2011, and how the money miraculously shrank without official sharing, among others.
After the meeting, Yari, alongside Governors Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia) and Muhammadu Abubakar (Bauchi), briefed newsmen, explaining the requests and suggestions they made to the President to tack their current financial burdens.
On his part, Bauchi governor said: “All we are saying is that sharing (of revenue) should be done according to the Constitution of Nigeria and let’s abide by that Constitution.
“If you heard anything sharing it refers to the ECA and you know that as at today, the ECA has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“So, any account apart from the Consolidated Revenue Account is unconstitutional. Every kobo should go to the Consolidated Revenue Account,” Abubakar explained.
According to Yari, “we proposed to Mr. President that instead of being given bail out, that the funds for jobs, projects that were done by the states should be refunded by the federal government.
“If the affected states are able to get the money owed them released, they can start paying salaries without bail out.
“Secondly, we also brought to the president’s notice that most of the loans owed by the state, some between four and seven years, if the repayments can be stretched to 20 years, the states will be relieved and will be able to continue other businesses, including paying salaries.”
Fielding questions, Yari put total indebtedness of all the states, including the Federal Capital Territory at N658 billion, adding that some of the states are owing salaries, and collected loans from banks.
He added that the governors had earlier rejected the idea of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) because its management was suspicious.
He said: “The question is who is the manager? Like the Excess Crude, who are the managers? Each state and local government has account in the Excess Crude Account but who are the managers?
“The Federal Government is taking about 56 per cent while states and local government areas are taking 44 per cent but the Federal Government is the manager of these accounts; and where your money is being kept and you cannot ask questions.
“For instance before our Governors Forum was divided, we left $10.3 billion in the Excess Crude Account and we expected the account to grow but as reported in our last meeting, the account is now $2.6 billion and the sharing has been stopped since May 2013, no kobo has been given to any state or local government.
“So, under which platform will you save the money? To save the money is good but no matter how beautiful it is, if not backed by the Constitution, it is null and void.
“What we are saying is for the President to invoke Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution. If Mr. President will invoke these relevant sections of the Constitution where all the generating agencies (NIMASA, NPA, NNPC, Customs, etc) will pay and remit the exact amount into the consolidated revenue, we need not touch the oil money.
“The issue is the loss. We can have a good president today and tomorrow you have a bad president. You can have a good president today that will grow the account and tomorrow you will have a bad president that will spend the money.”
“The President informed the governors that he would not request money from any of the G-7 countries but only support towards rebuilding the infrastructure destroyed by Boko Haram insurgents.
“We also raised concern about the dismantling of military checkpoints on the highways and all we are saying it is not timely. But Mr. President cited some incidents that happened at the military checkpoints and where necessary, he has given the Chief of Army Staff, the permission that they can continue especially in the North, South East and the frontline states”, Yari disclosed.