Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
• APC governors reiterate call for FG’s intervention, to wade into N’Assembly crisis
Governors of the 36 states of the federation will meet today to consider proposals for a possible bailout for states with financial difficulties, especially those unable to pay workers’ salaries.
Also, the governors are expected to discuss their dwindling monthly allocations from the Federation Account and the status of the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
Last month, governors on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had met with President Muhammadu Buhari requesting a bailout to enable them pay the backlog of salaries to workers in the states.
Already, workers in Osun, Enugu, Ekiti, Benue and Ebonyi States have embarked on strike over the inability of their state governments to pay their salaries.
In a statement by the Director General of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Asishana Okauru, he said: “I have been directed by the Chairman, Governor Abdullaziz Yari, to invite you to a meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum holding as follows on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 10 am at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.”
He listed the agenda for the meeting to include: brief by the chairman, update on the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) and ECA, proposal for bailout to states, and a revenue enhancement scheme for states, among others.
In their last meeting last month, the former chairman of the forum, Chibuike Amaechi, in a communique said the governors asked the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to account for the money that accrued to the ECA from 2013 to 2015.
Specifically, the governors asked the former finance minister to account for over $20 billion that was saved in the account between May 2013 and April 2015.
In response to their demands, the minister published a schedule of how funds from the ECA were utilised by the federal, state and local governments during the period.
She reminded the governors that despite her advice that money in the ECA should be saved for a rainy day, the states had insisted on spending most of the savings.
She also reminded them that she repeatedly advised the state governments to make the payment of workers’ salaries a priority, but they ignored her, thus leading to the present backlog of unpaid wages.
Ahead of today’s meeting of the NGF, THISDAY learnt that APC governors under the auspices of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF) met in the Imo State Governor’s lodge in Abuja while their counterparts from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also met in the city last night to articulate their position on the bailout for the states.
A notice of the meeting of the PDP governors made available to the media yesterday stated that the governors would also elect a new chairman for the PDP Governors’ Forum.
The notice signed by the coordinator of the forum, Onaiwu Osaro, said the Governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko, who was the deputy to the former chairman, Godswill Akpabio, would be elected to lead the forum by his colleagues.
The meeting was also expected to deliberate on the state of affairs of the former ruling party, following the recent resignation of its national chairman, Adamu Mu’azu.
The PDP governors’ meeting, which started at 9 pm yesterday, had eight of its 13 governors in attendance.
Those present included Mimiko, Capt Idris Wada (Kogi), Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Mr. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom).
The governors of Delta and Bayelsa States were represented by their deputies.
Also, rising from their meeting last night, the APC governors reiterated their call on the federal government to provide funds to enable them pay the outstanding salaries of their workers and meet other necessary obligations.
Addressing journalists after the meeting which lasted for over five hours, the Chairman of the PGF and Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorcha, conveyed the concern of the governors over the state of the economy and called for urgent attention by the federal government.
“We the governors of the progressive party met today to review the state of the economy. We also met to review the issues as it affects our great party.
“First, on the economy of the nation, we are concerned and worried by the dwindling revenue of the states which today has affected negatively the lives of our people.
“It has become so serious and urgent action must be taken for a bailout for the states. States are not getting better either. We sat down to review what steps could be taken.
“We are calling for an overhaul of the system to block all the leakages in our economy.
“We have realised that what we are going through today is as a result of the poor management of our economy in recent times. The APC government met a near empty treasury. This has become very worrisome, not just for us, but for the entire nation.
“We have some natural challenges in the country because of the drop in the oil price and the issue of oil theft. There are other issues like the crude swaps.
“We have the gas revenues which has never been reflected before. We have the mismanagement of oil subsidy. A few years ago, we paid about N200 million (for subsidies). Today, it is about N1.4 trillion. We are worried,” he said.
Okorocha also stated that the forum would wade into the crisis trailing the election of the new leaders of the two chambers of the National Assembly.
“We also have congratulated the leadership of the National Assembly. We are aware that the process led to a disagreement. We, the governors of the party, have resolved to embark on a peace process to make sure that we return as members of one family that we have always been.
“We have also discussed how to strengthen our party. This is the party that brought change and that change must stand. We will make the party meet the desires of our great members.
“We are assuring Nigerians that we will remain focused and address some of these issues,” he said.
The meeting was attended by 16 governors of the APC.
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