Governors from the 36 states have said they will abide by the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari to pay all outstanding salary arrears before Christmas only on their own terms.
Imo Governor Rochas Okorocha briefed journalists at the State House after the governors held a closed-door meeting with Buhari inside the council chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Okorocha confirmed the directive, and added that the payment of the arrears is dependent on the president’s approval of the payment of the 50 per cent Paris Club loan refund.
“Yes, with the Paris Club coming, every worker should enjoy his/her Christmas”, Okorocha said.
“The president has expressed the need to make sure that every Nigerian especially the workers have a beautiful Christmas and the issue of outstanding Paris club was discussed and that was taken care of.”
According to him, the governors put pressure on the president to get approval for the balance so that they (governors) can make adequate appropriation arrangements.
“We also made a request for Mr. President’s approval so that the balance should form part of our 2018 budget, because we can’t include it, until we are sure that the money is coming. That was also sorted out.
“So, as it is now, the issue of workers took the centre stage and Mr. President was concerned about those who depend on their salaries to feed their families and pay their house rent and he had the assurance from the governors that we will meet up those obligations”, he said.
Kaduna Gov. Nasir El-Rufai also said every state will get its own share of the Paris Club refund based on what was arrived at after reconciliation irrespective of the quantum of arrears owed.
“Every state has a specific amount that was deducted. That amount may be enough to cover the arrears; it may not be, because you cannot get more than what you are entitled to. It varies from state to state.
“My state has no salary arrears at all. So, it’s a mute issue. Kano doesn’t have salary arrears. Whatever we are getting, we just continue with our development projects.
“Some states have salary arrears that are bigger than the Paris Club refund they are getting. Even when they get it, they will not be able to clear the salary arrears. But it is better to reduce it so that people will have happier Christmas than not,” he said.
The Paris Club Refund has generated lots of controversy since Buhari began to dole it out as intervention fund in salary crisis at the height of inflation in Nigeria.
But some of the governors hunkered down on the freebies to do other things, mostly for themselves.
The EFCC have identified at least three governors who diverted their state allocations for personal use.