Paris Club refund: Senate moves to probe Buhari

Barring any last minute change, the Senate will next week commence an inquiry into how Paris Club refunds and other bailout funds doled out to governors by President Muhammadu Buhari were approved.

Senator Samuel Anyanwu from Imo State, in a motion of national importance, yesterday, queried the legality of the funds given to governors by President Buhari. He also sought to know who gave the approval, since the National Assembly was not consulted before the disbursement.

Anyanwu told his colleagues: “I am worried about the Paris Club refunds. Governors are asking for more funds. Where is this money from? The Senate has not given any approval. Who gives the approval and where is the money from? I heard the president scolding them. The president was asking them how they sleep at night even when they do not pay salaries. They have received billions of naira. I feel worried. Even the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has told the president to stop giving bailout funds to governors.

“If you look at front pages of newspapers, you will see the issue there. This is the problem. If my colleagues will allow me, I want to bring this as a motion at our next legislative day. I so submit.”

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, sought the leave of his colleagues to approve that a proper motion be brought to the floor at another legislative day.

“If it is the will of colleagues that this motion be brought at another legislative day, then Senator Anyanwu can sponsor a proper motion,” Saraki said.

The lawmakers voted that Anyanwu should present a proper motion at another next week.

The next legislative day is Tuesday, October 24.

President Buhari, few weeks after he assumed office in 2015, had approved bailout funds to states to settle salary arrears, without any recourse to the National Assembly, as prescribed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended). Section 80 (4) of the constitution states that “no moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”

In late 2016 and early 2017, President Buhari approved the disbursement of N760.17 billion in two tranches of N243.79 billion each to the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory. The funds were also meant to offset backlog of salaries of state civil servants.

On Monday, governors again met with President Buhari, before he departed for a summit in Turkey and demanded the release of the outstanding Paris club refund by November, to enable them include it in their 2018 budget appropriation.

Addressing newsmen after the meeting with the president on Tuesday, Governor of Zamfara State and chairman of Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari, said they were in the Villa to thank the president for the previous bailouts as well as the Paris Club refund, which he said has helped them in meeting the obligations of their states.

“Our mission is simple. We are here to thank Mr. President for his concern about the state of the economy and for giving us several support ranging from bailout, restructuring our debts, Paris Club exit payment. We also told him that we think that it was because of his decision to grant us bailouts and pay the refund of the Paris Club that many Nigerians are criticising him, this is the reason why we got out of recession.

“These support is going down to them when you are taking the indices from the grassroots. We thanked the president for that and at the same time, as a father, we said to him, Mr. President, you remember that in 2016, we presented to you the numbers of Paris Club exit funds, which we agreed, and you directed we be paid 50 per cent and the remaining 50 per cent open to reconciliation.

“Reconciliation has been on since 2016; we are hoping that both the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ministry of Finance, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and our consultants are concluding this reconciliation by November. Therefore, we want to crave your indulgence so that we can factor the numbers in our 2018 budget, so that we can use it for projects and other recurrent spending according to the specification given by our respective House of Assemblies and that’s why we are here.

“Mr. President was prompt being that he has a representative in the National Economic Council, that is the vice president, and Minister of Finance is away. We are going to work on the numbers when he returns from his trip. We are going to follow up this meeting with him so that we can conclude on what is going to be done next,” he said.



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