Governors give condition to refund N614b to FG

Posted by Yusuf Alli and Augustine Ehikioya | 23 August 2019 | 751 times

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•Nigeria Governors’ Forum meeting in session

Governors on Thursday gave the Federal Government a condition to refund the N614 billion budget support intervention fund given to 35 states.

They insisted that there must be a reconciliation of what each state will refund before any step could be taken. The governors spoke at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting in Abuja, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

As a result of their insistence, a committee was set up to work things out and report back at the next meeting.

The money was released to states by President Muhammadu Buhari during the recession when many of them were unable to honour their obligation to workers. Apart from Lagos, all the remaining 35 states benefitted from the fund.

A governor, who spoke in confidence, said: “We agreed in principle on the need to refund the N614 billion but with a condition that deductions must be done after reconciliation of the actual intervention funds given to each state.

“We all decided to set up a reconciliation committee, comprising all parties and stakeholders. We do not want a repeat of how states paid in excess for London-Paris Club loans. It was only when President Muhammadu Buhari came on board that the refund of the excess loan repayments was effected.

“The Federal Government and the states mutually consented to defer the deduction of the N614 billion from statutory allocations or other accruals until a proper reconciliation has been done to the satisfaction of all parties.

The states fear that refunding the money might plunge them to further financial crisis. Many of them are struggling to pay salaries and carry out other activities.

However, Finance, Budget and National Planning Minister Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said each state is likely to refund N17.5 billion.

According to her, the NEC reviewed the state of the economy.

She added that arrangement has been concluded to forward the 2020 budget estimates to the National Assembly next month for consideration.

The objective is to return the country to the January-December budget cycle.

Mrs. Ahmed, who briefed State House reporters at the end of the NEC meeting, said: “Council agreed to constitute a committee of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) to meet with the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to finalise modalities for repayment.”

According to her, Council was briefed on preparations for the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and the revenue generation challenges faced by the government.

She said the stabilisation fund account and natural resources fund balances as at August 20 is $95,329,245.24; the balance in the natural resources development fund account, she said, is N95,896,886,829.69.

She said reports on the Excess Crude Account and other special federation accounts are expected at the next meeting.

According to the minister, the macroeconomic environment is recovering gradually.

“There have been eight successive months of economic growth since emerging from recession.

“The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) remains the basis for the medium term fiscal strategy.”

Highlighting successes recorded, she said: “Macro-economic stability has been achieved with growth in end Q3 2019 at 3.01 per cent.”

The minister added that there was an increase in real GDP from 1.89 per cent in the first quarter of last year to 2.01 per cent in 2019.

“There has been significant growth in non-oil sector. Contribution of the non-oil sector to GDP has increased by 90.4 per cent in Q1 2018 to 90.9 per cent in Q1 2019.”

Ahmed said the unemployment rate was at 20.1 per cent as at the third quarter of last year, adding that there was the need for more diversification to boost inclusive growth.

According to her, the President is committed to employment generation in the second term of his administration.

She said considerable success has been recorded in containing insurgency in parts of the Northeast, with economic activities recovering.

She noted that recurring conflicts between farmers and herdsmen, as well as incidences of flooding, had affected agricultural products.

Breaches in petroleum pipelines, the minister said, partly accounted for low oil production volume in the first half of the year.

“Inflation has continually declined since 2017 from 18.72 per cent to 11.08 per cent in July 2019,” she said.

On the $9 billion judgment debt against Nigeria, she said that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had assured that the Federal Government will appeal the judgement.

Some governors attended the meeting, the first after the ministers’ inauguration.

Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki noted that August 21 marks a three-year milestone without a case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) in Nigeria.

He underscored the need for improved campaigns to stop the outbreak of the CVDPV2 (a type of poliovirus), even as there is the need for increased routine immunisation.

Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, who chairs the NGF, gave an update on NEC Ad-Hoc Committee on Security and policing.

He said the Inspector-General (IG) had initiated community policing, adding that there is a plan to use N-Power beneficiaries and youth corps members as police officers in their Local Government Areas.

He said that the Council also received a presentation from the Chief Executive Officer, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) Oscar Onyema.

The NSE, he said, is one of Africa’s foremost Exchanges, with a market capitalisation of N25.7trillion ($70.7bn).

“Over the last five years, N10.3trillion in long term capital has been raised by federal and state governments in the form of Government Bonds,” the governor quoted Onyema as saying.

According to him, the capital market offers innovative financing solutions for Nigeria’s $100 billion infrastructural challenge. (The Nation)

Source: News Express

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