President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday in Abuja, vowed that billions of dollars stolen from government coffers by past government officials would be recovered by his government.
Speaking with state governors during his maiden meeting with them at the State House, President Buhari said what happened in government in the recent past was worse than what happened during the Second Republic which led to the overthrow of the Shagari administration, but promised that he would do his best to restore sanity to the system.
President Buhari also said yesterday, that his administration has received firm assurances of cooperation from the United States and other countries on the recovery and repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria.
•(l-r) Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, President Muhammadu Buhari and Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina during Buhari’s meeting with State House Press Corps.
Yesterday’s meeting was at the instance of the governors in a bid to address the crippling economic situation in some states which was responsible for non-payment of salaries by several states.
To address the situation, President Buhari announced the setting up of a committee under the leadership of the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to look at the Excess Crude Account and see what can be shared immediately to cushion the effects of the economic crunch on the states.
Speaking on the economy, President Buhari said although there are procedures and processes for running government agencies and departments, such processes and procedures were “thrown to the dogs”.
He, however, assured state governors that the days of impunity, lack of accountability, and fiscal recklessness in the management of national resources are over in Nigeria.
While expressing shock that the state governors would allow the money in the excess crude account to be spent without accountability since 2011, President Buhari noted that he would address the issue shortly.
“There are financial and administrative instructions in every government parastatal and agency. But all these were thrown to the dogs in the past. Honestly, our problems are great, but we will do our best to surmount them.
“The next three months may be hard, but billions of dollars can be recovered, and we will do our best,“ the President told the governors.
The President declared that the payment of national revenue into any account other than the Federation Account was an abuse of the constitution, adding that what he heard was going on in many agencies and corporations, particularly the NNPC, was clearly illegal.
On the refund of monies spent on federal projects by state governments, President Buhari assured the governors that the Federal Government will pay, but insisted that due process must be followed.
The President also promised special assistance for the three North-Eastern states badly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
FG’s Report on economic situation soon
He further said that a comprehensive statement on the economic and financial situation inherited by his administration will be made to the nation within the next four weeks.
“We will try and put the system back into the right position. What happened in the Second Republic has apparently happened again, and even worse, but we will restore sanity to the system,” President Buhari assured the governors.
On an immediate lifeline for states that owe salaries running into many months, President Buhari said that a committee headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, will look at the Excess Crude Account and see what can be shared immediately.
The governors, led by Chairman of the Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, requested the President to, among other things, ensure the obedience of extant Supreme Court ruling that all monies go into the Consolidated Federation Account.
The governors also implored the President to give a directive that all revenue generating agencies must pay into the Consolidated Federation Account.
While also calling for the review of the Revenue Allocation Formula, the governors appealed to the Federal Government to refund monies expended by states on federal projects as well as a special consideration for the three North Eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe that have been under Boko Haram infestation.
They further called for full disclosure of the amount that accrued into the Excess Crude Account from 2011, and how the money shrank without official sharing.
What govs told Buhari
Addressing State House correspondents after the meeting, Governor Yari said the governors presented some requests to the President for immediate consideration.
He said: “We proposed to Mr. President that instead of being given bailout, that the funds for jobs, projects that were done by the states should be refunded by the federal government. If the affected states are able to get the money owed them released, they can start paying salaries without bail out.
“Secondly, we also brought to his notice that if most of the loans owed by the states, which are between four and seven years, can be stretched to 20 years, the states will be relieved and would be able to continue other businesses including payment of salaries.
“We also requested that $1.6bn first charge paid by LNG to the Federal Government, should be paid to the federation account so that it could be shared amongst the three tiers of government, which will enable us to do one or two things.
“Also we urged the President to follow the constitution when it comes to money sharing. Section 80 is very clear, that all monies should go to the Consolidated Revenue Account for the purpose, and no account should be kept anywhere because this is what the constitution says.
“Section 162 also is explanatory, that whatever is going to happen to the money will be after sharing to the three tiers of government and that the NNPC or any other revenue generating agency should not have the first line charges”.
Governors in attendance were Akwa Ibom -Emmanuel Udom (PDP); Adamawa -Bindow Jibrilla (APC); Benue – Samuel Ortom (APC); Borno – Kashim Shettima (APC); Cross River -Prof. Ben Ayade (PDP); Delta – Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP); Ebonyi – Dave Umahi (PDP); Gombe -Ibrahim Dankwambo (PDP); Imo – Rochas Okorocha (APC); Jigawa – Alhaji Badaru Abubakar (APC); Kaduna – Nasir El-Rufai (APC); Kano – Dr Abdullahi Ganduje (APC); Katsina – Aminu Masari (APC); Kebbi – Atiku Bagudu (APC); Kwara – Abdulfatah Ahmed (APC); Lagos – Akinwunmi Ambode (APC); Nasarawa -Umaru Al-Makura (APC); Niger -Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello (APC); Ogun -Ibikunle Amosun (APC); Oyo -Abiola Ajimobi (APC); Rivers – Nyesom Wike (PDP); Sokoto – Aminu Tambuwal (APC); Taraba – Darius Ishaku (PDP); Yobe -Ibrahim Gaidam (APC); Zamfara -Abdulaziz Yari (APC); Anambra – Willie Obiano (APGA); Edo – Adams Oshiomhole (APC); Ekiti – Ayo Fayose (PDP); Kogi – Idris Wada (PDP); Ondo – Olusegun Mimiko (PDP); Osun – Rauf Aregbesola (APC).
Plateau (APC) and Bayelsa (PDP) states were represented by their deputy governors.
US, other countries to assist FG recover funds
Meanwhile, President Buhari said in Abuja, yesterday, that his administration has received firm assurances of cooperation from the United States and other countries on the recovery and repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria.
Speaking at an audience with members of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, President Buhari said that it was now up to Nigeria to provide the international community with the facts and figures needed to drive the recovery effort.
“In the next three months, our administration will be busy getting those facts and the figures to help us recover our stolen funds in foreign countries,” the President told the traditional rulers .
Citing the report submitted by the Ahmed Joda-led transition committee, President Buhari said that several revenue-generating institutions in the country have been compromised, leading to a weak economy.
On insecurity, the President said that the traditional rulers could play a key role in stemming terrorism and insurgency in Nigeria by assisting the government with cost-effective intelligence gathering.
President Buhari also assured the traditional rulers that his administration was working hard to end insecurity and terrorism in the country in the shortest possible time with the cooperation of neighbouring countries and the international community.
Sultan Abubakar had earlier presented the Northern Traditional Rulers’ recommendations to the President on issues related to national development.
The Sultan told the President that as custodians of tradition and stakeholders in the Nigerian project, the traditional rulers had a responsibility to always advise political leaders on the “path of truth and justice”.