Written by Tony Akowe,
Fed Govt borrows N473b to pay salaries, says Okonjo-Iweala
THE gloomy state of the economy was laid bare yesterday.
States are broke. Many of them are finding it difficult to pay salaries. Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala finally agreed yesterday that the economy is troubled. She said the Federal Government has borrowed N473 billion to meet up with recurrent expenditure, including salaries and overheads.
The budgetary provision for borrowing is N883billion.
All Progressives Congress (APC) governors and governors-elect urged President-elect Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to bail out states.
They told Gen. Buhari that the economy was in a very bad shape, requiring urgent attention.
The President-elect said Nigerians should give his administration a chance to reposition the economy and restore confidence in the system.
The governors, after a meeting on Monday night at the Imo Governor’s Lodge, met with Gen. Buhari at the Defence House in Abuja for over one hour, urging him to do everything humanly possible to bail out the states so that they can pay workers.
Chairman of the APC Governors Forum and Imo State Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha told reporters at the end of the meeting that they came to inform the President-elect about the challenges ahead of him when he is sworn in on May 29 – 23 days away.
Some of the states are owing between one month and six months salary arrears. Osun state is in arrears of four months. Benue and Plateau have five months to pay.
Oyo State is owing three months. Rivers and Imo are yet to pay workers for two months. Bauchi and Ekiti are owing one month.
He said: “We came to pay a courtesy call on the President-elect who will be sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief on the 29th of May, 2015 and also to familialise ourselves with the governors-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“One of the issue of concern to all of us is the state of the Nigeria economy, which is really in a bad shape and we have come to notify the incoming President of the challenges ahead of him.
“As it stands today, most states of the federation have not been able to pay salaries and even the Federal Government has not paid April salaries. That is very worrisome and by May and June, that will be cumulative of about three months and we wondered that with the huge expectations from Nigerians and people who voted us into power, we are hoping that the President-elect will do all the things that are humanly possible to bring about a bailout, not only on the part of the states, but also the Federal Government so that people can get their salaries and turn around the economy.
“We have seen the reasons to work together and support Mr. President and we have also called on all our brothers in the other political parties to come along with us to build this Nigeria of our dream.
“In a nutshell, we have come to congratulate Mr. President-elect on a well deserved victory, knowing that with this victory, the change we have all been waiting for must be dedicated to the ordinary citizens of Nigeria who stomped out and voted accordingly.
“What we have done so far is to inform him about the state of the economy and make suggestions. But I know that he will know how to solve this ugly situation.”
Okorocha spoke on “appointments and power sharing”, saying “it is too early in the day but as a party, we shall all work together to make sure that there is equitable distribution of positions and infrastructure in Nigerian and this will be done as soon as possible”.
Gen. Buhari, who praised the governors for the visit, told them that he was aware of the high expectations from Nigerians. “I have started nervously to explain to people that Rome was not built in a day.”
He urged Nigerians to give the incoming government a chance to reposition the economy and be in a position to pay salaries.
He said: “For this to be corrected, please give the incoming government a chance. Here, I will like to recall what happened during the Abacha regime which led to the emergence of PTF.
“The Abacha regime was a military regime and it thought that the only way was to increase the prices of petroleum products, but they were taking Nigerians for a ride.
“They would have said that if Nigerians decide to riot, they have the guns and so they can have their way. They decided to tel Nigerians that they were going to increase prices of petroleum products and the money we get, we will put aside for development. That was how PTF came.
“So, this time around, under this system, to bounce back with the issue especially with the backlog of salaries which are of immediate concern to individuals and states,I think we should look for a better way to address the issue and think of how to persuade people to give us a chance to organise the economy immediately and get something to pay salaries.”
The President-elect said while security remains first on his agenda because if there is no security, there is no development, when he assumes office, he will urge the people to “give us a chance to stabilise the security”.
He lamented what he called the destruction of social infrastructure, especially in education, but assured that he will do everything within his power to ensure every part of the country is safe.
At the meeting were Vice President-elect Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, House of Representatives Speaker and Sokoto State Governor-elect Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Kwara State Governor Ahmed Abdulfatah, Nasarawa State Governor Tanko AlMakura, Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola and Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima.
Others include Governors-elect of Kaduna State Nasir El Rufai, Adamawa, Senator Jubilla Bindow, Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Bagudu, Bauchi, Barrister Mohammed Abubakar, Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, Plateau State, Simon Lalong and the deputy governor elect of Niger State.
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