Still On N500bn Paris Club Refund
By Shittu Yunus Shittu
In line with the federal government’s mission to reflate economic activities in the country, the Federal Government had earlier disbursed a special intervention fund totaling N338 billion to 27 states in the country which was a step taken to enable states pay workers’ salaries and also salvage their economic situation.
Till this moment, the issue of unpaid salaries and economic hardship did not just remain unsolved but keeps getting worse by the day.
Parents are finding it difficult to afford tuition fees, feeding has become very challenging as the inflation rate is unbearable, investments in Nigerian are being discouraged as companies are going bankrupt, while others are leaving the country with so many other unsustainable economic situations springing up on a daily basis.
The conditions upon which the fund was released was for states to set and meet targets to enhance internally generated revenue (IGR), ensuring establishment of efficiency units to reduce overhead costs, privatization of state-owned enterprises, domestication of the fiscal responsibility act and limiting the act of securing further bank loans. Unfortunately, these conditions were not met by the respective state governments as the funds were diverted to unnecessary projects, payment of contract debts and some Governors went to the extent of diverting bailout funds for personal use.
In an investigation carried out by the ICPC, Zamfara state received N10 billion to pay its workers but it was revealed that the state did not owe any worker. Imo state received N26.8bn and transferred part of it into areas not related to the payment of workers’ salaries. Adamawa state got N9.5bn as bailout cash but disbursed only N2.38 bn with a balance of N7.2bn but the state could not provide any reason for the slow process of off-setting the debt. Also, Benue state received N 12.5 bn as bailout fund and disbursed N10.8 bn with a balance of N 1.65bn. However, double payment of N37.7 million was made in favor of office of the deputy governor which was being investigated by the ICPC.
Niger State received N4.39 bn as bailout fund and the entire amount was claimed to have been expended in off-setting salary debts. Osun state which has been at the centre of salary payment crisis received N34.98bn as bailout fund and disbursed N18.67 bn leaving a balance of N16.3 billion as at November 2015. There were allegations that Osun state public servants had only been paid salaries up to July 2015.
Kebbi State received N7.08bn as bailout fund and disbursed N2.6bn with a balance of N4.46 bn. The State claimed to have cleared all outstanding arrears on salaries as at September 2015.
Without considering the unethical and uneconomical act of the funds expenditure, the Federal Government once again approved the release of a sum of N500 billion for states for the same reasons with which the first tranche was allocated.
If States government can mismanage the first tranche given the fact that their debts and economic crisis was minimal compared to their present debt and economic crisis level, the judicious expenditure of the Paris club fund cannot be guaranteed simply because the agents that bear the responsibility of checking the expenditure have failed.
In order for the Paris fund not to go down the drain just like the bailout fund, an efficient, effective and transparent committee should be set up not to just ensure the judicious expenditure of the fund but to also publicize the actions, projects of the states concerning the Paris fund refund.
For the Governors that have been found guilty of bailout funds mismanagement, appropriate sanctions should be meted out to the erring ones to act as deterrent to others, through the activities of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) and the ICPC. The people of these states have undergone such much pains, agony and deaths through their mischievous actions.
Shittu is a National Youth Service Corps member. Email: email@example.com