The governors of the 36 states yesterday met with President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to release the 50 per cent balance of the Paris Club refund for inclusion in their 2018 budget appropriations.
Led by chairman and chief executive of Zamfara State, Abdullaziz Yari, the governors after the two-hour closed-door meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, recalled that the Presidency disbursed N760.17 billion in two tranches on May 4 this year in partial settlement of long standing claims relating to over-deduction from their allocations from the Federation Account for external debt servicing between 1995 and 2002.
Also in the team were Governors Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Mohammed Abubakar (Bauchi) and Ebonyi Deputy Governor Kelechi Igwe who represented his boss, David Umahi.
However, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), had last month, urged the President not to release the third and final tranche of the largesse to the governors until they make a commitment to settle all outstanding salaries, allowances and pensions of workers and retirees with the fund.
Briefing State House Correspondents after the meeting, Yari said they asked the President to effect the disbursement upon reconciliation next month.This, he said, was to enable them use the money to execute projects and undertake other recurrent expenditure subject to approvals by the houses of assemblies.
He noted that the parley was sequel to the outcome of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting held last month. Yari said: “We are here on behalf of the 36 state governors and this is a result of the collective decision to see the President after the National Economic Council meeting last month.
“Our mission here is simple. We are here to thank Mr. President for his concern about the state of the economy by giving us several supports ranging from bail outs, restructuring of our debts to the London- Paris Club exit payment.
“We also told him that we think that it was his firm decision that made Nigeria exited recession.” He continued: “As a father, we said to him to remember that in 2016, we presented the numbers of London and Paris exit funds which we agreed, and he directed that we should be paid 50 per cent and 50 per cent open reconciliation.
“Reconciliation is on since 2016, we are hoping that both the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ministry of finance, AGF and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November.
“So, we want to crave your indulgence that we factor in the numbers into our 2018 budgets so that we can use it for projects and other recurrent spending according to the specification given by our respective House of Assembly and that is why we are here.”