N548.393bn allocation rejected Is Nigeria broke?
Despite Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s denial, states left Abuja yesterday empty handed.
There was no cash to share as the monthly Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting was aborted — for the second time this month.
The chairman of the meeting, Minister of State for Finance Yerima Ngama, failed to show up. No reasons were given for his absence.
Besides, the arrears of the N366 billion expected to have been paid in by the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) is yet to be paid.
The chairman of the commissioners, Timothy Odaah, decried the situation.
Odaah, who is Ebonyi State Commissioner for Finance, said: “It is like the states are being starved of funds by the Minister of State for Finance, giving us the theory of handle the dog with great starvation and whichever way you want him to turn, he will turn.”
The states, he said, “are not dogs; we respect Mr. President and are calling on him to hear this.”
He said commissioners and the state accountants-general were invited by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Jonah Otunla, but he had nothing to tell them and was as confused as the state representatives.
Odaah said: “For the second time within the month of September, the FAAC session has been stalemated. We were invited by the Minister of State for Finance, who is the chairman of FAAC, but we have not seen him.”
According to Odaah, Otunla instructed him as chairman of the Commissioners Forum to invite his colleagues to yesterday’s meeting, but at the end, Odaah said, “he (Otunla) was more confused than anybody”.
He said he wanted to let us know that there was no change.
Angered by the action, the state governments, Odaah said, had warned the Ministry of Finance “not to invite us until all issues are settled”.
Odaah added: “We have imperative demands, augmentations and differentials in benchmark, which we listed. We agreed that there would be no further augmentation in order to clear the backlogs.”
At the first botched FAAC meeting in September, Ngama and the commissioners agreed that they would not “dip hands in the reserve which made us to believe that the NNPC has brought in something this time”.
Odaah said: “It was agreed that the augmentation backlog till July should be paid because states had entered into financial commitments, relying on benchmark expectations, the tendency is that states are in a bad shape. Past augmentations should be paid but from August no state will enter into new contracts.”
“However, up till now, there has not been any augmentation, no clearing of the backlog. The worst effect of this is that it is having a retrospective effect on the states and local governments. As a result of this uncleared backlogs, states rely on the budget in order to secure financial commitments and handle security issues and issues of contractors. We have issues of insecurity, among others. Just clear the backlog and we get along,” Odaah said.
Ngama, according to Odaah, is ” playing levity with our case”. “We have been slighted; contempt has been poured against the states to the extent that the interest of our states and local governments is suffering. He has treated us with contempt and treated our states and local governments with contempt”
The way forward, Odaah said, “is that the state accountants general, commissioners for Finance on the directives of our governors are going back and should not be called back until the conditions we give are met and the President must be informed.”
The commissioners went on: “To have called us without any improvements in our demands is a great slight and has shown that the minister does not brief the President. We know the President as a good leader with listening ears who would have attended to these problems immediately if he was aware, but it is like Ngama tells him he will control us. We do not support this situation. The minister should be competent enough and show that level of competence. The minister is running FAAC as his own show.”
Last week, Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi said states were short paid in their July allocation. According to him, of Rivers’ N19 billion allocation, only N14 billion was paid.
Amaechi said this is an indication that the government is broke.
He reiterated his call for Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to resign “if she cannot manage the economy well”.
But the minister insisted that government was not broke.
According to her, an indication of that is the payment of civil servants’ salary for September.