Despite all the allegations that some state governors diverted the first tranche of London-Paris Club refunds which was released to the states last year to enable them offset the salary arrears of their workers, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday asked the Minister of Finance, Mrs. 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, according to 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.
According to the statement, the president challenged the governors to ensure that Nigerian workers and pensioners are paid their salaries and pensions so that they can meet the needs of their respective households.
“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 was also said to have thanked the governors for their display of “love and respect” for him, added that he was overwhelmed by their kindness, particularly for shelving their political differences and tasking their citizens to pray for him in mosques and churches while he was on medical vacation in London.
He was said to have apologised to the governors for barring them from visiting him when he was in London, just as the governors were also said to have advised him to take more days off to get adequate rest.
But Buhari, who said he was committed to matters affecting Nigerian citizens, told the governors all that he went through while he was away, disclosing that he had to return to Nigeria last Friday to avoid ruling Nigeria from London.
“I didn’t want government to move to London. I wanted governance to remain here and I am glad it did,” he was further quoted to have said.
The decision, according to him, was the only way to express gratitude to the people whom he said: “Had given so much to me,” adding: “I was overwhelmed by the celebration of my return all across the country.”
Responding, the statement added, the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdul-Aziz Yari of Zamfara State, assured the president, on behalf of his colleagues, that they would continue to support his policies and actions which they had adjudged to be in the nation’s interest.
The statement added that the governors of Imo, Akwa Ibom, Osun and Abia States thanked Buhari 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.
The four governors also thanked Buhari for coming to their rescue by ordering the release of the second tranche of the London-Paris Club refunds.
The governors were also said to have commended the trust the president reposed in Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo whom they said lived up to expectations when he acted as president.