Abdulaziz Yari, chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), has quoted President Muhammadu Buhari as saying the Nigerian economy is in a bad shape.
Yari, who is governor of Zamfara state, disclosed this to state house correspondents after his counterparts met with Buhari for at least 30 minutes in the council chambers of the presidential villa in Abuja.
He said after thanking them, the president said “the economy is in bad shape and that we have to come together, think and rethink on the way forward”.
The governors met with Buhari on Thursday night over the lingering issue of a new minimum wage for workers.
A tripartite committee comprising of government, labour and the private sector, headed by Amma Pepple, former head of service of the federation, recommended the payment of N30,000 as minimum wage.
But the governors said they could not afford it and that the only solution was to carry out massive retrenchment of workers.
Yari, who declined to comment on what they actually discussed with Buhari on the minimum wage, said the president “talked to us in a manner that we have task ahead of us, we should tighten our belt and see how we can put the Nigerian economy in the right direction”.
The NGF chairman said the president also lamented how the previous administrations under the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) “led to the nation’s infrastructure decay” despite huge oil revenue.
“He wondered about what happened in the past; that for the 16 years of the now opposition party, the PDP in power and with oil at 2.1 barrels per day at an average of $100, many infrastructure are in bad shape,” Yari said.
The NGF chairman said Buhari who had recently said that he will not complain against the PDP again, told them that, that will be his main campaign tool.
“He is going to open a vigorous campaign and these are key issues that he is going to raise with Nigerians so that they can weigh their choices,” he said.
Yari said they also thanked Buhari for coming to the aid of states to enable them pay arrears of workers salaries by paying them the Paris and London clubs refunds.
He said unlike in the past, Buhari authorised bailout funds without recourse to party differences.
“When Mr. President came on board, 27 states out of 36 could not pay salaries some for 13, 12, eight, five months respectively,” he said.
“Our first encounter with him, he told us that we have no business of being in power if we cannot do the basic, that is pay workers. So he asked that we discussed how we can support those states that cannot pay salaries so that workers will be paid. Those in the position then came up with the idea of bailing out the states so that they can pay the arrears.
“But paying the arrears was not enough because the performance of the economy at that time could not sustain the current salaries, that was how he paid the London Paris Club in batches until we exited last month, the payment of London Paris Club has been lingering for the past 12 years.
“So we came here today to thank Mr. President because in bailing out states he did not discriminate along party lines unlike in those days when you can only get audience with Mr. President if you have long leg before the issue will be raised with minister of finance. He knew that Nigerians were going to be beneficiaries of the bailout, not governors. We believe without this mindset, it would have been difficult for us to govern.”