PRESIDENT Buhari Monday implored the 36 governors to pay all workers their salaries before the Yuletide so that workers will have a joyful Christmas celebrations.
He, therefore, directed the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Godwin Emefiele, the Minister of Economic Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma and the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun to negotiate with the governors of the figure from the Paris Club refund.
These were parts of the resolutions at the meeting between the President and the Governors Forum on the Paris Club refunds at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Chairman of Progressives Governors Forum and Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha flanked by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State and Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State said that the meeting centered on the need for workers to be paid their salaries before Christmas and the 50 percent Paris Club refunds that were outstanding.
Governor Okorocha said, “It was a brief meeting between the Governors of Nigeria and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The discussion centered on basically the end of the year and the President himself had expressed the need to make sure that every Nigerian especially the workers have a beautiful Christmas.
“The issues of the outstanding Paris Club was discussed and that was taken care of to make sure that workers in various states everywhere in the country get to celebrate the Christmas.
“We also used the opportunity to review our working relationship with the President from the states and we found out that we are in harmony. There is no difference between us and the president. Everybody seems to be happy working together.
“But particularly, we commended the president for the miracle of getting Nigeria out of recession within such a short time. We commended Mr. President and everybody left quite happy.
“We are looking at getting the balance of Paris Club refund thrashed out once and for all. We also made a request for Mr. President’s approval that the balance should form part of our 2018 budget because we can’t include it until we are sure that the money is coming. That was also sorted out.
“So, as it is now, the issue of workers took the centre stage because Mr. President felt much concerned about those who depend on their salaries to feed their families and pay their house rent and he had the assurance of governors that we will meet up those obligations.
“It was emphasised that states and federal governments must work together to get Nigeria out of its present economic predicament to make Nigeria a better society for all of us.”
When asked whether the President ordered that all salary arrears will be cleared by each state before Christmas, Okorocha responded, “Yes, with the Paris Club coming, every state must ensure that workers get their salaries to enable them to enjoy the Christmas. I made it clear.”
Also asked to clarify his statement to the effect that the 50 percent of the Paris Club refund balance will be in the 2018 budget and the resolution to use it to pay salary arrears this December, he said that there was a meeting of Minimum Wage Committee and the Federal Government had set up a Minimum wage to address the issue of salary in line with the ILO.
But at this juncture, Governor El-Rufai interjected to clarify the position of the matter.
He said, “Let me explain. The Paris Club refund figures need to be reconciled. While the reconciliation process was going on, the President approved that 50 percent of the original amount be paid to the states.
“The payment started from last year. We still have the balance of the first 50 percent. This is what the president said must be paid in time for the state governments to meet their obligations before Christmas because he is concerned that many families depend solely on their salaries for rent, for the festive period.
“That had been decided. The balance of the first 50 percent is what we are expecting now before Christmas. The President has approved that and said it must be paid.”
On the amount the governors were expecting from the 50 percent balance, he said, “I don’t know the amount. I am sure that if you contact the Ministry of Finance, they can give you the total amount. I only know what my state is likely to get.
“There is another 50 percent that needs to be paid when the figures are reconciled. The reconciliation is going to be concluded before the end of the year. The Chief of Staff to the President has ensured that the committee working on the reconciliation will conclude its work before the end of the year.
“So, what the governors are requesting from the president is a directive – ‘go-ahead to include the next 50 percent in the 2018 budget and that is going to be looked at.’
“Every state will get its own share of the Paris-Club refund. It will not get more. Every state has a specific amount that was deducted. That amount may not be enough to cover the arrears; it may not be because you cannot get more than what you are entitled to.
“It varies from state to state. My state (Kaduna) has no salary arrears at all. So, it is a mute issue. Kano doesn’t have salary arrears. Whatever we are getting, we just continue with our development projects.
“Some states have salary arrears that are bigger than what they are getting from the Paris Club refund. Even when they get it, they will not be able to clear the salary arrears. But it is better to reduce it so that people will have happier Christmas than nothing at all.”
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