By Femi Adediran, Abeokuta
The Ogun State Government on Thursday confirmed that the Federal Government is holding on to its share of the Paris Club refund due to concerns that the N17.3 billion due to the state may not be used to offset the backlog of payments due to workers.
The state Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Adewale Oshinowo, who disclosed this in Abeokuta to allay fears that the funds might have been trapped in a commercial bank due to alleged indebtedness by the Ogun State Government explained that the process for releasing the money is about being completed, assuring that debts being owed civil servants across the state would be paid immediately the money is released.
Oshinowo, who had appeared before the Ogun State House of Assembly Committee on Finance and Appropriation, led by Hon. Victor Fasanya in Abeokuta, the State capital, said contrary to the rumour that the refund was trapped in a commercial bank, the refund was domiciled in with Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Finance Commissioner declared, “The rumour is a total lie, nothing of such. We don’t have the money in any bank, the money is with the CBN, you (the media) can validate it with the CBN”.
Oshinowo explained that the Federal government deliberately withheld the money because it believed that the refund might be diverted by the State for other use instead of deploying it to offset backlog of workers’ salary arrears.
It would be recalled that the Ogun State government had held a press conference on September 20, 2018 where both the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Taiwo Adeoluwa and Oshinowo confirmed to the media that the Federal Government had deposited N17.3 billion to State coffers as the final tranche of Paris Club Refund for which the State government assured workers of immediate payment of salary deduction arrears, gratuities, severance package and social services.
But, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, declared on Wednesday after Federal Executive Council meeting that the Paris Club Refund was withheld to some States owing to their failure to use the fund to offset backlogs of salary arrears which she said had caused some uproar in the country’s financial cycle.
However, Oshinowo said contrary to the Federal Government’s perception that the refund might be diverted to fund expenses that are different from what the refund was meant for, the State government had earlier resolved to offset salary arrears as directed by Federal Government.
His words, “The first tranche is N10.6 billion and government used that for deductions, gratuities and severance and we even added money to that first tranche which means, we used 100 percent of that fund on salary requisite.
“The second tranche was N5.7 billion and the government spent 85 percent on salaries while 15 percent on social services. The third tranche was N5.7 billion and 80 percent was spent on salaries while 20 percent spent on social services. The fourth tranche was N17.3 billion.
“I am a little bit set back. Someone mentioned that we have received it and that it’s in one bank; why haven’t we revealed it out? The truth is, we first received the money which we did a Press Conference on and we said we are going to use 60 percent on salaries and 40 percent on social services.
“Along the line, the president called and recalled the money back to CBN and they met at NEC and they said at that NEC, go and do an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with all related agencies.
“As at last Wednesday we met and we signed an MoU in directives of the Federal Government that 50 percent should be spent on salaries and 50 percent on social services. We are waiting for all the necessary agencies to tarry along so that they can release the money to us.”
Ogun State Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Akeem Ambali, told Uhuru Times that, “We can also confirm that the money is not trapped in any bank. It is with the CBN, because of our agitation asking the Federal Government not to release the money. We want them to use at least 50 percent of the money to offset money being owed civil servants, especially cooperative deductions and the like, which have been causing a lot of financial hardship to our members.
“So, we signed the MOU with them for onward transmission to the Federal Government. If not they would have used the money to pay severance allowance of political appointees, while our members continue to suffer. They are owing union dues, which they have been deducting. Part of the 50 per cent remaining can now go to social services and the like, not just politicians.”