Paris Club Refund Is Our Right...Governors

States are not begging the Federal Government for money, but asking to be paid the Paris Club refund, which is their entitlement, a governor said yesterday.

Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar said the President’s statement to the governors at a meeting on Tuesday was part of his usual concern for the plight of workers. He did not see it as an indictment of the states’ helmsmen.

The governor said: “Don’t forget, this is money that belongs to us. We are not begging for anything, but demanding what belongs to us and that it should be paid to us.”

Abubakar, who addressed reporters after a meeting of some All Progressives Congress (APC) governors with the National Working Committee (NWC), said governors judiciously utilised the Federal Government’s intervention in the payment of salaries and pensions.

He added: “I was at the meeting with the President. Mr President, in his usual fashion, expressed his concern on the plight of workers and the downtrodden. He did not direct any accusation at the governors because the governors have actually utilised most of the intervention fund from the Federal Government for payment of salaries.

“Take Bauchi State, for example, my salary bill is N5.1 billion (states and local government). If you count the number of months that I came to FAAC and collect anything above N5 billion, it will not be more than five months in my two and half years in office.

“But because of the intervention today, I am proud to say that I am not owing a single kobo salary or pension. We have in the main, utilised this intervention towards payment.”

President Muhammadu Buhari told some governors on Tuesday that he was concerned about the agitation for salaries. “How can anyone go to bed and sleep soundly when workers have not been paid salaries for months,” Buhari said.

The governors at the governors NWC meeting include: Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abubakar (Bauchi), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Abdullahi Jibrilla Bindo (Adamawa).

Deputy Governors of Ondo, Kano, Kogi and Nasarawa states stood in for their governors.

On why Southwest governors were absent, the Bauchi governor said: “There is no communication gap. Two other deputy governors sent word that their flights were cancelled because of weather problem. The same thing applied to the Sokto State Governor who sent word that his flight was cancelled due to difficulty in weather.

“So, there is no communication gap whatsoever. In the past, the governors were attending. Governors are very busy people and it is always very difficult for us to have time to be on the field in addition to running our states.”

On the statement credited to former APC Interim Chairman Chief Bisi Akande that President Buhari was yet to tell the party that he would run in 2019, he said: “The meeting has not deliberated on that. The APC has a constitution and, in fact, that is one of the items that was discussed, how to amend the constitution of the APC with a view to strengthening the party in line with democratic principles. We will abide with the tenets of the constitution.”

National Publicity Secretary Bolaji Abdullahi said the leadership of the party an its governors fully supported Buhari’s request that the World Bank should focus on the Northeast. According to him, the President’s request was not meant to give preferential treatment to any section of the country.

He said the President’s statement was made in view of the specific attention that the Northeast needed as a result of the devastation caused by the Boko Haram insurgency.

He said: “You will recall that a few days ago, there was an issue in the media that President Muhammadu Buhari had asked the World Bank to focus attention on the north of Nigeria.

“The issue came up for discussion and the meeting threw its weight behind Mr. President’s position and we will like to clarify, in addition to everything that has been said, that the import of Mr President’s statement to the World Bank is in recognition of the particular devastation that Boko Haram has caused in the Northeast of Nigeria.

“Therefore, when Mr. President was asking the World Bank to focus attention on the development of the Northeast, he had in mind the necessary reconstruction that needs to happen in that part of the country, especially in the Borno, Yobe and Adamawa axis that suffered specifically because of the Boko Haram activities.

National Chairman John Odigie-Oyegun said previous editions of the meeting had been extremely useful not only in stabilising the party, but also contributing immensely towards handling various challenges.

He said: “I welcome you to the sixth of the series of our consultative meetings, which have proved to be extremely useful not only in stabilizing the party but also contributing immensely towards handling various challenges that have appeared before us as a nation and as a people.
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