Some state governors have protested the Federal Government’s withdrawal of the Paris Club refund to them to pay their workers’ salaries.
On Monday, media report indicated that the Federal Government had withdrawn the Paris Club refund of five states from their accounts.
The affected states are Delta, Imo, Benue, Rivers and Osun.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who confirmed the development on Tuesday, appealed to the people of the state to remain calm.
While expressing shock at the Federal Government’s action, Ortom said that he hoped that the decision would be reversed in the interest of the workers and retirees in the state.
The governor had on Monday directed the Ministry of Finance to commence the payment of salaries, gratuities and pensions from yesterday. The refund to Benue State is N14.9 billion.
His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Terver Akase, said: “Following the governor’s directive to the state Ministry of Finance, payment of salaries, pensions and gratuities was set to commence today (yesterday), only for the people to wake up with the demoralizing news of Federal Government’s recall of the funds from the state’s accounts.
“We hope this latest move is not part of the ongoing witch-hunt of the state. Benue people have already suffered enough impunity and attacks.
“We also hope that the withdrawal order was made in error, because the said funds are not grants from the Federal Government. This was a refund of funds the Federal Government has owed Benue over the years, so they shouldn’t make it look as though they had given the state a loan or a grant,” he said.
The amount disbursed to five states was $2.7 billion (N972 billion).
When the news broke out, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) called for an emergency meeting to challenge the action which some of them believed was politically motivated.
However, some of the states said that the money had been spent on payment of workers’ salary arrears.
The Osun State Commissioner for Information, Adelani Baderinwa, said the government was unaware of the development and cannot speak on it because its share of the Paris Club Refund had been spent on workers’ salaries.
The NGF emergency meeting called by the Chairman, Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari Abubakar, did not start at the time of filing this report last night. It was scheduled for 3:00 pm.
The affected states were asked to come with at least three months evidence of salary payment and any challenge related to the payment of salaries in their states.