By Ismail Mudashir, Musa Abdullahi Krishi and Shehu Umar
Controversies have continued to trail the Senate’s approval of N488.7bn as reimbursements to states for federal projects they executed across the country.
The senators had, before proceeding on their annual recess in July, approved the money for 21 states through a promissory note programme requested by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Daily Trust reports that the approval was sequel to the consideration and adoption of the report of an ad hoc committee chaired by Senator Francis Alimikhena (APC, Edo).
The same committee had on June 7 this year recommended that N396bn be approved for the states. The recommendation was unanimously approved at the plenary presided over by the Senate President Bukola Saraki.
However, the Senate rescinded the earlier approval a month later when a new report was considered with an increase of N92bn, Daily Trust reports.
Ogun and Oyo states, which were not in the first approval, were allocated N59.2bn and N13.4bn respectively. Also, in the new approval, Zamfara State which was earlier allocated N39.9bn got N60bn.
A review of the approval showed that Lagos got the highest with N114bn. It was followed by Akwa Ibom with N78.7bn. Niger State got the least with N333.8m.
A further review showed that Adamawa got N4.2bn, Kwara N11.2bn, Plateau N12.1bn, Jigawa N10.7bn, Gombe N6.9bn, Ondo N4.3bn, Ekiti N11.6bn, Edo N10.4bn and Osun N13.2bn.
Others are Ebonyi N15.4bn, Kano N4.4bn, Enugu N13.5bn, Benue N3bn, Imo N2.8bn, and Anambra N37.9bn.
The panel said some states were not included in the first report as a result of incomplete document and failure to appear before it.
“The affected states were later invited to present the justification of projects executed in their states on behalf of the Federal Government. This is in line with the Senate determination in ensuring that justice and fair hearing is extended to all,” the panel said.
However, even the committee observed that the claims by the states were bogus, Daily Trust reports.
It said some states that appeared before it were faced with the challenge “of having an incomplete document to justify their outstanding claims.”
“States like Kwara, Adamawa and Lagos embarked on the highway project execution as far back as 2004, while others followed thereafter,” the committee said.
Why I made request – Buhari
President Buhari said he made the request for the establishment of the promissory note programme and a bond issuance to settle inherited local debts and contractual obligations.
In a letter dated March 8, this year, Buhari conveyed the resolution of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), requesting the National Assembly to pass a bill to effect the promissory note and bond.
He said it has become imperative to clear obligations including; unpaid obligations to pensioners, salaries and promotional arrears to civil servants, and obligations to petroleum marketers.
The president also listed contractors and suppliers debts, unpaid power bills, Export Expansion Grants (EEG) scheme debts, Judgement debts and refund to state governments for projects undertaken on behalf of the federal government.
“As you may be aware, sections 41(1a) and 44(2b) of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) stipulates that the proceeds of borrowing by government at all tiers shall be applied towards capital expenditure.
“To provide legal backing to clear the recurrent expenditures component of the obligations, a request for the amendment of the FRA was sent to National Assembly,” the president said.
Our correspondent reports that in the president’s letter, details of the federal projects and the amount due to states were not provided.
Yari speaks on Zamfara N60bn
Contacted, the Special Adviser to Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State on Media and Communication, Ibrahim Dosara said the Federal Government owes Zamfara State government over N50bn.
Dosara said the money was expended on the federal projects in the state over the years. He said the projects are mostly roads.
Executive, Legislature must come clean – CISLAC
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said both the Executive arm and the National Assembly must come out clean on the N488bn approved for 21 states as outstanding debts.
Rafsanjani told Daily Trust that the manner the money was approved left much to be desired, hence the need for accountability.
“Both the National Assembly and the Executive seem to conspire to undermine public financial openness and promote financial recklessness and dubious debts and spending without public accountability.
“There is a serious issue of integrity of governance going on under this government, which is worrisome and disturbing given the claims of moral superiority. We are witnessing too much compromise on ethics and principles.
“This is a setback because what the previous administrations were doing is being repeated under this government, making public accountability a caricature and mockery. Otherwise one would not expect this secrecy in approval to happen under a government that is supposed to be promoting public disclosure, especially financial.
“It’s clear even the so-called disagreement with the National Assembly principal officers was not for public interest but personal. We insist that governance is about people and that Nigerians must know and monitor government’s decisions as they affect Nigerians,” he said.
Why fund must not be released now – Senator
Speaking, a senator from Northwest said the money should not be released to the governors until after next year’s elections.
The Senator, who does not want to be named, said the governors will use the money to execute their campaigns if released now.
“I’m totally against the release of the money at this particular time because elections are around the corner. If it is released now, it would be channeled towards elections. And the aim the president made the request would be defeated,” he said.
He said the money was expected to be channeled towards fast tracking the development of states and not for execution of election campaigns.