One of President Muhammadu Buhari’s support groups, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has said that the president has shown that he is a compassionate leader with his approval of a 4th multibillion naira bailout for states in six years. The group in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, said the decision to disburse N656 billion to be shared among the 36 states as budget support facility was totally unexpected.
According to the group, “we were pleasantly surprised when the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmad, first dropped the hint, in Lagos, about the President’s approval of yet another bailout for the states at a time they were to begin repaying three previous bailout facilities extended to them. “At the time, many Nigerians did not know what to expect until the meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC) where it was revealed that each of the 36 states would get N18.2 billion in six tranches over the next six months, to be repaid over a 30 year period starting from 2023.
“This is truly unprecedented and not even in the oil boom years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did the country witness anything close to this. “We invite Nigerians to note that the first ever bailout by the Buhari administration was within the first few months of the President’s assumption of office, when it became obvious that no fewer than 27 States were having difficulties in paying workers salaries and pensions. ” A n o t h e r tranche of bailout was in 2016 while a third was disbursed in 2017 with President Buhari specifically insisting that state governors should prioritize payment of salaries when it was obvious that many States again had several backlog of unpaid salaries.
“So as surprising as the 4th bailout in six years is, it is totally in the character of a President who is so compassionate that he Buhari once asked some Governors how they could sleep at night knowing that workers salaries had not been paid”. BMO expressed hope that state governors will use the funds judi-ciously on projects and initiatives that would have direct bearing on the populace. “It is true that in 2015, a salary bailout loan of about N338bn was disbursed to states with a tenor of 20 years to help states facing fiscal strains meet outstanding salary obligations.
“Not many Nigerians were convinced that some states used the previous bailouts for what they were meant for, so it was not surprising that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) in 2016 issued a report showing that Benue and Imo states diverted part of the bailout funds. “Nigerians are also abreast of the situation between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Kogi State government over bailout funds found to have been stashed in a bank. “So, we believe the onus is on Nigerians and the civil society to keep the sub-nationals on their toes and ensure that the latest bailout funds are not diverted into private pockets,” the group added. It also urged the anti-graft agencies to live up to their responsibility of monitoring the disbursement of funds to each of the 36 states.