President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday expressed regret that nearly two-thirds of states of the federation were still having difficulties with salary payments despite the bail-out funds provided them by the Federal Government. Buhari spoke at a meeting with governors of the 36 states of the federation under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. President Buhari said that he was pained by the hardship which state government workers across the country and their families were facing due to the nonpayment of salaries. The governors had met with Buhari at the conclusion of their meeting on the nation’s economic crisis with a call on the President to initiate the process for a review of the revenue sharing formula among the three tiers of government. They told the President that the states deserved a higher percentage of the nation’s earnings commensurate to the burden and responsibilities of governance that the states’ chief executives have had to contend with. Presently, the monthly allocation is believed to be skewed in favour of the Federal Government which takes 56 percent of monthly earnings in the federation account while the states and the local governments take only 44 percent. According to the NGF Chairman, Adbulazeez Yari, the governors also demanded refunds for expenditure undertaken on behalf of the Federal Government by the states since 2005 in the areas of roads rehabilitations and the likes to enable them urgently meet the demands of governance in their various states.
Yari also told State House correspondents after the meeting with Buhari that the governors equally asked the Federal Government to grant them 18 months moratorium before deductions could be made from their monthly allocations in respect of the recent bail-out funds and other loans obtained by the states. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) had last week approved the suspension of deductions in respect of loans from the monthly allocation of the states for the month of April to enable them meet their salary obligations to workers. Minister of Finance who briefed correspondents after last week’s FEC meeting announced that the Federal Goverment would grant further relief to the states after their revenue profiles would have been examined.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement quoted Buhari to have promised the governors that the Federal Government would strive to make more funds available to the states by expediting action on refunds due to them for the maintenance of federal roads and other expenses incurred on behalf of the Federal Government. President Buhari, according to the statement, also said that he would establish an inter-ministerial committee to study a Fiscal Restructuring Plan for the Federation which was presented to him by the governors.
The President said that the committee would review the plan to improve the finances of state governments and make recommendations on how proposals in the plan should be dealt with by the Presidency, the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly through legislation, Shehu noted in the statement. Buhari urged the governors, however, to understand that while he was ready to do all within his powers to help the states overcome their current financial challenges, the Federal Government also had funding problems of its own to contend with. “You all know the problems we have found ourselves in. You have to bear with us,” he told them.
The statement also noted that Yari who is also governor of Zamfara State and Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, who chaired the committee that worked on the Fiscal Restructuring Plan, asked the Federal Government to do more to help the states financially. It said the governors told President Buhari that while they had resolved to take other measures to boost their internally-generated revenue, the implementation of the Fiscal Restructuring Plan would help them to deal with their funding problems on short, medium and long-term bases. They said that if the plan was adopted and implemented by the Federal Government, states of the federation will become more financially empowered to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities, the statement noted.