Anxiety grips 33 governors over N552.74bn refund

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Some of the 33 governors whose states benefitted from the recent refund of N553 billion excess deductions are desperate to keep details of the financial transactions from
the public.

They do not want their civil servants in
particular to have the details so that the
workers will not be able to blackmail them as
they did in respect of the bailouts.

President Muhammadu Buhari had approved
the release of N522.74 billion to states as
refunds pending reconciliation of records.
In directing Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun to
release the money to the states, Buhari said
workers’ welfare, particularly salaries and
pensions, must be prioritized.
Some states were accused of diverting the
N300billion bailout first given to them last
year and abusing the loan restructure worked
out for them by the Debt Management Office
(DMO).

Many states are still owning their workers for
several months and there are fears that some
of the governors are less interested in using
the refunds to meet their financial obligations
to the workers.
Informed sources said in Abuja yesterday that
the Presidency is likely to show more than a
passing interest in how the states deploy the
refunds and may even monitor the use of the
cash.

It was also learnt that the Economic and
Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the
Independent Corrupt Practices and Other
Related Offences Commission (ICPC) are also
going to keep tabs on the utilization of the
bailout funds by governors.
The refund sheets had been obtained by the
anti-graft agencies as at press time.
The Nation gathered that the governors
prevailed on Adeosun not to make details of
what they got public to avoid fresh
confrontation with workers.

The breakdown per state remains a secret at
the Ministry of Finance in line with the
agreement with the governors.
Following protest by states against over
deductions for external debt service between
1995 and 2002, 33 states were listed as
beneficiaries with each of them entitled to a
cap of N14.5 billion being 25% of the
amounts claimed.
Minister Adeosun said the payment of the
claims will enable the states offset
outstanding salaries and pensions which have
been “causing considerable hardship.
The presidency asked the states to devote a
minimum of 50% of any amount disbursed to
address the challenges associated with
salaries and pensions.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed
that presidency had asked the 33 states to
use 50 per cent of the bailout funds for
“challenges associated with salaries and
pensions.”
Security reports have however indicated that
some of the governors have refused to disclose the amount actually given to their states.

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Findings confirmed that some of the
governors have devoted only 10 to 25 per
cent of the bailout to payment of backlog of
salaries A reliable source in government said: “The presidency has received reports that some
state governors were not forthcoming on the
actual refunds paid to them. In fact, the row
over the figures has caused tension.

“Some state governors have openly come out
to declare that only a fraction of the bailout
funds will be used for salaries and pensions.
There is a state which purportedly received
about N5billion, but it only earmarked
N1.5billion, leaving outstanding wages
unaddressed.

“The President will be personally upset if
these bailout funds are diverted or converted
to other use by the governors. The
presidency is already monitoring
development in all the states.
“If the bailout funds are not judiciously used,
the presidency may not be disposed to such
interventions in future.”
It was difficult at press time to get the exact
figures of what was released to each of the
33 states.

A finance ministry official said: “The
governors reached an agreement with the
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, not
to release the breakdown in order not to
cause tension in the affected states. They
said they might incur the wrath of workers if
there is full disclosure.

“At the governors’ forum, all members were
directed to keep the figures under wraps
because of the likely consequences in each
state. This is why some governors have
under-declared what they were allocated.”
Attempts by our correspondent to get the
breakdown from the Federal Ministry of
Finance have failed as all relevant desks
claimed that “there is instruction from above
not to release the fact-sheet.”
One of the desk officers said: “There are even
threats to deal with whoever releases the
breakdown.”
Meanwhile, it was also learnt that the EFCC
and ICPC have been mandated to keep tabs
on the utilization of these funds.
“The anti-graft agencies already have the
fact-sheet on the allocations to each state
and they are keeping tabs on all these
governors. In the last exercise in April, ICPC
had discovered that about 16 states were yet
to disburse about N57, 663, 185, 735
allocated to them out of N713.7billion
intervention funds to states.

“The first bailout was part of a three-pronged
relief package that will end the workers’
plight. While N413.7billion represents special
intervention funds, the balance of about
N250billion to N300billion is a soft loan to
states.
“Altogether, we are talking of about N1,
266.44trillion in nine months given to
governors as bailout funds. This is why the
EFCC and ICPC will take more than a passing
interest.”

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