President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday admitted that the Nigerian economy is in bad shape when he met behind closed-doors with state governors at the Council Chamber, presidential Villa,Abuja.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum, NGF, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, said that President Buhari challenged the governors to redouble efforts in addressing infrastructural deficiencies in their respective states in order to revamp the nation’s economy.
Yari, who is the governor of Zamfara State said, “Mr. President, as usual, responded by telling us that the economy is in a bad shape and we have to come together and think and rethink on way forward. “So, Mr. President talked to us in the manner that we have a task ahead of us. So, we should tighten our belts and see how we can put Nigerian economy in the right direction and how we can address the nation’s infrastructural decay. “So, all of us as leaders especially those that are coming to the National Assembly and those coming back as governors and the president who will be re-elected by God’s grace, we should not think that things are going to be easy, it is going to be harder than before, this was the message of Mr. President.”
The governors had earlier attended an extended sessionof the National Economic Council (NEC) presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajoalso at the Banquet Hall, Presidential villa before the meeting with thePresident. Osinbajo, at the extended session yesterday, challenged governors ofthe 36 states of the federation and other stakeholders in the country to stopthe blame game and focus on human capital development in their respectiveareas. He told the governors to resist playing politics with issues, sayingthat it was time to get the job done. On the meeting of the National EconomicCouncil, Governor Yari disclosed that the Council deliberated extensively onnew ways state governments could generate additional revenues for speedy economic growth and development. When asked on what was the decision on theN30,000 new minimum wage which was expected to be one of the agenda at the meeting,Yari declined to confirm whether the meeting with the president discussed theissue of the proposed minimum wage. Recall that the Minimum Wage Negotiationteam had recommended N30,000 as the new wage but the governors rejected thecommittee’s proposal and the N24,500 proposed by the federal government sayingthat they will only pay N22, 500. The NGF chairman said, the President alsolamented how the previous administrations under the opposition PeoplesDemocratic Party, led to the nation’s infrastructure decay despite huge petrolrevenue. Yari said, “He wondered about what happened in the past; that for the16 years of the now opposition party, the PDP in power and with oil at 2.1barrels per day at an average of $100, many infrastructure are in bad shape.”Yari said Buhari who had recently declared that he will not complain againstthe PDP again, told them that, that will be his main campaign tool. “He isgoing to open a vigorous campaign and these are key issues that he is going toraise with Nigerians so that they can weigh their choices,” he said.
The Zamfara governor also said President Buhari expressed optimism that all of them seeking re-election including himself or those going to the National Assembly will be victorious, adding however, that “it is not going to be easy, it will be harder than before.” Yari said they also thanked Mr 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 without those payments,”as governors, we therefore, appreciate what Mr. President has done. Without the President, with our mindset and thinking, it will be very difficult for us to govern, that’s the truth.”
He also 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. 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 (yesterday) 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 usto govern.”