President Muhammadu Buhari has directed key finance officials to meet with representatives of Nigeria Governors’ Forum to determine how much of their unpaid debts can be released to them before Christmas.
The President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari gave the directive while responding to pleas by the governors who visited him at the State House, Abuja, on Monday.
Shehu said the Chairman of the Forum, Gov.Abdul-Aziz Yari of Zamfara, had asked that the President give a commitment to pay all outstanding debts owed the States from London and Paris Club deductions to ease their financial hardships.
“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.’’
President Buhari, however, said that the issues affecting the states were familiar to him, adding that he was not averse to the payments so long as the treasury could afford it and the economy will not be destabilised.
“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.”
The media aide said other governors that spoke at the event commended President Buhari for his support and assistance to the States.
He said they particularly lauded the president for approving various refunds to the state governments since 2015 irrespective of their political differences.
“Following the presentation by the Chairman of the Governors Forum, four other Governors – Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna; Ra’uf Aregbosola (Osun); Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Rochas Okorocha (Imo) took turns to commend the President for caring for the States and their workers.
“They also commended him 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.’’