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19 Governors fault Obaseki on N60bn mint claim

By News Desk

Nineteen governors elected on All Progressives Congress (APC) platform have faulted claims by Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, that the Federal Government, in its bid to bridge revenue shortfall in March, printed between N50 billion – N60 billion for distribution of federation revenues to the three tiers of government.

The governors argued that contrary to Obaseki’s claim, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration did not print any money to augment the federal allocation distributed during the period under review adding that the governor’s claim was not true reflection of what transpired.

The 19 governors under the aegis of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), maintained that it was surprising that despite rebuttal from the country’s Minister of Finance, Obaseki still took time out to reply and countered the true position of what transpired during the allocation sharing.

The Forum, in a statement released to newsmen on Sunday in Abuja, by its Chairman and Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, said that the insistence by the governor that the March 2021 FAAC was augmented via the printing of money was false and farther from the truth.

He added that the clarification had become imperative given the significance of Obaseki’s statement and possible negative impact it has brought to the credibility of both the federal and state government in managing government finances.

According to him, the federation revenues distributed monthly primarily consist of mineral revenues from the sale of oil and gas, as well as non-mineral revenues from customs and excise duties, company income tax, and value added tax.

“To set the records clear and to the best of our knowledge, the total distributable statutory revenue for the month of March 2021 was N596.94 billion. Due to the shortfall in gross statutory revenues by N43.34 billion compared to the previous month, an augmentation was made in the sum of N8.65 billion from the Forex Equalization Fund Account, which brought the total distributable revenue to N605.59 billion.

“The Progressive Governors admits that there are periods when the country experiences significant fiscal shocks in federation revenues but says the shocks are offset by other savings serviced from the federation account, including distributions from the domestic excess crude proceeds and the foreign excess crude savings account.

“These payments started since 2008 when the country first experienced fiscal shocks from the fallouts of the global financial crisis of 2008 – 2009. As a trained Economist who has been a Governor since 2016, Mr. Obaseki is aware of all the support states have received from President Buhari in coping with the shocks that have resulted from the CoviD 19 pandemic and resulting economic recession.

“Not only have we received budget support, bail out support to meet salary obligations and infrastructure refunds to all states, this was implemented in the overall public interest without discrimination on the basis of party affiliation. This is why it’s unfortunate and disingenuous to allege preferential treatment of APC states when PDP governed states are even greater beneficiaries of all the support,” said the PGF.

It said there was nothing exceptional in this current review of economic orthodoxy because “almost every Central Bank in the world is taking steps to support their government in coping with the effect of Covid 19 pandemic on the national economy. This has become the norm rather than the exception as all countries grapple with the deleterious effect of economic recession.”

The PGF continued, “This unfortunate and inaccurate assertion by Governor Obaseki becomes even more worrisome when juxtaposed with the official statement released after the meeting of PDP Governors last week, calling for restructuring and greater devolution of powers to the States. It would appear that matters that require the collective resolve of all leaders are now being turned into purely partisan, point scoring claims.

“Every discerning Nigerian knows that the APC’s position on restructuring and devolution is clearly articulated and accurately captured in the report of Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s Committee on True Federalism. And the APC Governors Forum has since made representation to NASS in furtherance of that position. However, since there are constitutional boundaries, we cannot usurp the responsibilities of the NASS on constitutional reform process, having made our position known.

“These are challenging times for the country. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the recent macroeconomic challenges has had a significant impact on government finances, however, both the federal and state governments are working assiduously to confront the challenge through greater collaboration to increase independent government revenues, rationalize non-essential spending and improve the efficiency of public spending.

“Indeed, we are beginning to see the positive impact of these initiatives given the country’s exit from recession in the first quarter of 2021.”

The PGF said while the right to criticize and hold alternative views was acknowledged, “all state governments have been equitably treated by both the Federal Government and national institutions, particularly the CBN. The support includes, among others, bailouts, special interventions and various refunds that were owed to states prior to the Buhari administration.”

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