Render accounts for debt refund, Nigerians tell governors

Slam Houses Of Assembly For Being Weak, ‘Dumbs’
From the labour group, entrepreneurs, civil society activists and financial sector came a damning challenge against the state governors to explain how they spent the first tranche of the Paris Club Debt refund.

The demand for the details in regards to N522 billion refunds shared among the states is coming just as there is obvious lack of readiness to render account and silence the request as usual by the governors.

Meanwhile, the easy ride by the governors in frivolity has been blamed on the country’s state legislatures, who have been described as weak, dumbs and puppets, manipulated cheaply by the state chief executives.

The Federal Government had in December 2016, according to a Finance ministry source, agreed to release part of the refund to states, even without conclusive reconciliation of the figures, on the basis that 50 per cent of the amount would be for salaries and pensions, while the remainder would be for critical projects.

However, only Lagos and Cross River states have reported their refunds to be intact, with mapped out plans to invest it in critical infrastructure, while others said they have already expended theirs.

But the source told The Guardian that it is a standard practice for the ministry to monitor disbursed fund and have asked for rendition of account from the governors, which they are not willing to oblige, stalking the release of the second tranche.

Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts, bared fangs that the National Assembly is completely cut out of the details of the refund, with no institutional mechanism for monitoring, which now turned the money mere largesse.

“States have collected so much money as loans to the point that many of them are not longer credit worthy. Most of the monies collected as loans were simply wasted in the last 17 years. It is very clear that even the first tranche of the refund has not been felt going by various protests.

“For now, the State Houses of Assembly don’t have the will to exercise their powers. The governors have pocketed most of them, and they have no courage to question the excesses of their governors. So, that is a major problem we are facing as a country.

“The only way for this refund to work is for the ICPC and EFCC to monitor how the monies are being spent. And that will amount to over-burdening these institutions because they were not established to monitor projects,” he said.

The President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ayuba Wabba, affirmed that there were guidelines for the funds released and the some state governments utilised the money for the purpose it was meant for, while many diverted theirs.

“That is the fact and nothing has happened to those that diverted the fund. Therefore, it is safe to say that the purpose of the fund has not been achieved.

“The payment of salaries, pension and gratuities of workers are still a burning issue. We believe in the labour movement that the economy has remained in recession because workers have not been paid,” he said.

Professor of Political Economy and Management, Pat Utomi, in a chat with The Guardian, said states are bedeviled with capacity problem in their administration.

According to him, most of the funds are wasted not only as a result of corruption, but ignorance and sheer lack of will to engage in town hall meetings where issues can be sorted out.

He said that the capacity challenge has been a continuum, as lots of reviews following the years of coup showed that across board there were foreign loans taken by state governments that never even got to Nigeria, but directly disbursed into personal accounts of some state governors.

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