By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari Monday told members of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, that he will only give to them what the nation’s treasury can afford in order not to collapse the economy.
Already the President has directed his key finance officials to sit down with representatives of the NGF to determine how much of their unpaid debts can be released to them before Christmas.
The directive came as a result of the demand from the Nigeria governors appeal to the President to release the 50 balance of the Paris Club refunds for them to settle arrears of salaries.
The President who held a meeting with the governors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, expressed his pity for the workers who depend on their salaries to celebrate the Christmas and ordered his key ministers in charge of the economy to negotiate with the governors on how much they needed to settle their debts.
According to a statement signed by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the governors had sought commitment from the President.
“Responding to pleas by the governors who came to the State House on Monday under the leadership of Abdul-Aziz Yari, the Chairman of the Forum asking that the President give a commitment to pay all outstanding debts owed them from London and Paris Club deductions to ease their financial hardships, President Buhari said he was not averse to the payments so long as the treasury can afford it and the economy will not be destabilised”, it read.
It further stated that “The Governors informed the President that they wanted his commitment on this repayment so that they could factor the money into their 2018 appropriation plans.
“In his reaction, the President said that the issues affecting the States were familiar to him.
“As such, he remarked, “I will not be saying much because the responsible ministers are here: Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank of Nigeria. I request you to appoint your own team to come and sit down with them.
“This should be done, not only for next year’s budget but for this Christmas. The Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning and the Central Bank should sit down with you in a sub-committee to see how much can be released before Christmas.
“For Nigerians without sources other than their salary, I am concerned that workers should be able to pay rent, school fees, buy drugs and take care of their families. I am so much concerned that people should have something to eat at Christmas.”
Following the presentation by the Chairman of the Governors Forum, four other Governors – Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna; Ogbeni Ra’uf Aregbosola, Osun; Udom Gabriel Emmanuel – Akwa Ibom State and Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Imo State took turns to commend the President for caring for the States and their workers; for his equal treatment of the States irrespective of political party differences and for approving these refunds to the States going back to 2015 which according to them, previous leaders chose not to give attention to.