Written by Augustine Ehikioya

President laments cash crunch on first day at Villa

NIGERIA is broke. The treasury is virtually empty, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday – his first at the Aso Villa since his assumption of power on May 29.Buhari-resumes-office

Besides huge foreign debts, there are unpaid workers’ salaries. This, to Buhari, is a “disgrace”.

Buhari was speaking at a meeting with State House correspondents at the Villa.

He said: “I hope we are starting and this culture developed, of 100 days, is bringing so much pressure, with treasury virtually empty, with debts in millions of dollars, with state workers and even federal workers not paid their salaries. It is such a disgrace for Nigeria. I think Nigeria should be in a position to pay its workers. This bad management that we find ourselves in, we really need your help to protect us from people before they match on us.”

The chairman of Buhari’s Transition Committee, Alhaji Ahmed Joda, said in an interview published by Sunday Trust that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration left a debt of N7 trillion.

“We were told at the beginning of the exercise that the government was in deficit of at least N1.3 trillion and by the end people were talking of about N7 trillion; everything is in a mess and these things have to be fixed,” Joda was quoted as saying.

Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo said before the inauguration of the government that it would inherit a debt of $63 billion.

But former Finance Minister and Coordinating Minster for the Economy Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the Jonathan administration had a debt of $21.8 billion.

She said the $63.7 billion Osinbajo alluded to included loans taken by governments since 1960.

On his appointment of Femi Adesina, Buhari said: “It is not by accident that I got the best of you to be the special adviser, one of the 15 aides I had to get clearance from the Senate to appoint. He is one of the best presidents of the Guild of Editors that I can have as special adviser. I brought one of the best of you so that he can consistently defend me against you.

“Whether my job is a difficult one or easy is up to him, but I’m here to thank you in advance for what good and ill you are going to do to me.

“I have to quickly come and see you and welcome you to this place. I hope what happened of recent between the former president and one of you will not happen between me and you.”

Spotting a white Babanriga and white cap to match, President Buhari resumed duties for the first time in his office inside the Presidential Villa.

Since May 29, Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo have used the Defence House, Abuja as their offices to allow renovation at the Villa.

It was not immediately clear excatly when Buhari came into the expansive office as the trekable distance between his official residence and office is not within journalists’ view.

Besides, the list of visitors to the seat of power was unknown as reporters were not allowed to enter the President’s Office.

But photographers and television cameramen had a field day, clicking away before some of the meetings started.

Osinbajo, who arrived at the Vice President’s wing of the Presidential Villa around 9.07 a.m, after spending a few minutes in his office, walked up to Buhari’s office.

He acknowledged greetings from workers who trooped out from their offices to catch a glimpse of him. He was all smiles.

The workrs, who reported early to work, were apparently glad that Buhari and Osinbajo had eventually resumed at the Villa after operating for three weeks at the Defence House, Abuja.

At Buhari’s office, the two leaders met with some of the top presidential aides.

Among those Buhari met with were Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Ismaila Aliyu, who led security chiefs to brief the President on the security situation in the country.

He also met with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefuele.

After the meetings in his office, reporters met Buhari around 5.30 p.m when he came to the Press Centre to meet with accredited State House correspondents.

He was in the company of State Chief of Protocol Lawal Abdullahi Kazaure, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity Femi Adesina and Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Buhari spent 25 minutes with the State House correspondents, shaking hands with them and posing for photographs with the over 80 journalists in the hall.

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