President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday asked the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to immediately release the second tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds to the states to ease their financial difficulties.
The president in a statement by his media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, gave the directive while addressing the National Economic Council (NEC), comprising the governors, finance minister and other appointees of the federal government such as the Director-General of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Thursday.
Mr. President strictly told the governors that their priority when they receive the second tranche of the fund should be to pay salaries, pensions, and gratuities.
The president expressed the hope that the early release of the refunds by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, would ease the financial hardships being experienced by the states.
“I will not rest until I address those issues that affect our people. One of these basic things is the issue of salaries. It is most important that workers are able to feed their families, pay rent and school fees, then other things can follow,” Buhari was quoted as saying.
The President, who went round the Council Chambers to greet the governors one after another, praised the unity of the Forum of State Governors.
He thanked them profusely for their display of “love and respect” to him.
He said he was overwhelmed by his recent experience in which states, irrespective of political differences charged their citizens to pray in mosques and churches for his well-being.
Buhari also apologized to governors for barring them from visiting him while he was resting in London.
“I didn’t want the government to move to London. I wanted it to remain here and I am glad it did,” he said.
The Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum, Abdul-Aziz Yari of Zamfara, assured the President, on behalf of his colleagues, that they would continue to support his policies and actions which they had adjudged as being in the nation’s best interest.
The governors of Imo, Akwa-Ibom, Osun and Abia States thanked the President for saving the day for states through the first tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds while calling for the immediate release of the second one.
They also commended the trust the President reposed in Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, whom they said did not disappoint when he acted as President.
Other matters discussed at the meeting include the problem of deforestation and update on the security situation across the country.
Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service, Mr. Tunde Fowler, highlighted the problems of tax evasion and the scheme being put in place to stop it.