It was gathered that the National Executive Council (NEC), presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has approved the extension of the Federal Government’s Budget Support Loan Facility to various states of the federation to help cushion the effect of the economic recession on state governments.
This will be the fourth bail out to states by the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to assist states meet their obligations, especially the payment of salaries.
The approval for the extension of the facility came after a briefing by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and a directive from acting president Yemi Osinbajo, to allow the settlement of states and local governments who are yet to receive claims.
The council also approved the rehabilitation of prisons across the 36 states of the federation.
Briefing State House Correspondents at the end of the meeting, Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwabo, said the Council also received the report on the forensic audit of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and gave the balances in various federation accounts as at June 28.
He stated that the excess crude account balance stood a $2.3 billion; Stabilisation account balance, N28.5 billion; Natural resources account balance, N87.6 billion, while the balance in Ecological account was put at N28.9 billion.
He said: “Although the Finance Minister presented that the Budget Support Loan Facility has been fully disbursed, she announce that the Acting President has directed the facility continues until other State’s claims are paid.
“Council was briefed on budget support to states because of dwindling revenue and budget implementation. The programme was meant for a year, but because of recession, acting president said the facility should continue pending when other claims of states and local governments will be settled.
“Committee of NEC set up to review or carry out forensic audit of the ECA and FAC submitted interim report. As at today, 10 of 18 have been audited; audit of five are still ongoing; three are yet to start. Council agreed that we should submit a full report at next NEC meeting,” Damkwabo said.
Ebonyi State Governor, Dave Umahi, said the council gave approval for the rehabilitation of the prisons after being briefed by the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau, and Comptroller-General of Prisons on the state of the prisons.
He said Council resolved there was the need for emergency declaration on the state of Nigerian prisons and tasked governors to deploy all powers within their reach to salvage prisons, including the engagement of private sector participation, adding that some of the inmates could be engaged for agricultural production.
“Minister of Interior and the CG, Nigeria Prisons, briefed council on state of prisons and inmates throughout the country. The situation they painted was quite pathetic. I visited the prisons in my state for the first time recently, and what l saw was terrible…So, it was agreed that governors should, on their own, develop initiatives to manage the prisons. For instance, some have transferred prisons from urban centres. NEC agreed that governors should support the federal government on prison matters.
“States that have the capacity to build prisons should go ahead and do so, including the involvement of private sector participation. The minister said 70 per cent of inmates are awaiting trial. Some of them can be converted to labour use. Ten per cent of them are condemned. Some of the prisoners should be engaged in agricultural programme.
“Governors should do a number of things to decongest prisons. Chief judges of states should frequently visit prisons. Governors should either sign death sentences of those condemned or commit them because it is risky leaving them after their trial had been concluded. NEC resolved that there should be emergency situations on prisons,” he added.
The Ebonyi governor also reported that the Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, briefed the council on the state of SDGs in the country and came up with recommendations, among others.
Other recommendations he listed included: the setting up of a commission on SDGs; building synergies between federal and state governments on SDGs; sensitisation and advocacy at sub-national level and follow-up, while governors should have commissioners or special assistants to oversee SDGs in their states and also come up with state action plan.
The Director-General of National Action Council for AIDS, Sani Ali, who also briefed journalists, said he informed NEC that three million Nigerians are currently living with HIV. He also said the council deliberated on the need to increase HIV funding.
According to him, there is a need to set aside 0.5 per cent of the monthly federal allocation to fund HIV treatment as more than 70 per cent of the current one million victims being treated are funded by partners.