By Musa Ilallah
Available records from the Debt Management Office, DMO indicate that from the first recession in 2016 that struck Nigeria to date, bailout funds given to the 36 States of the Federation to cushion the effects of recession, have hit N1.75 trillion.
The idea of dashing bailout funds to the States was borne out of President Muhammadu Buhari’s desire to support the States in times of dire need.
Some Nigerians are however of the view that the recent tranche of N656.112 billion Bridge Financing Facility to the 36 States by the Federal Government should have been withheld until such a time the States were able to fully give account of how they expended the first tranche of the bailout funds given to them by the Federal Government.
A total sum of N1.75tn has been given to States in Nigeria as extra-statutory allocation known as bailout since the advent of President Buhari’s administration
Under the recent support funding which came in the last quater of last year 2021, each State received the sum of N18.2bn from the facility which according to the report will help them (States) afford the repayment of previous bailout facilities namely the Salary Bailout, Excess Crude facility and Budget Support facility guaranteed to them by the Federal Government.
However, questions begging for answers on such bailout facilities given to the States by the Federal Government include to what extent have such States been transformed.
The transformation is expected in terms of road networks, bridges and flyovers, free medical care, students’ scholarship, sustainable empowerment programs, jobs creation, revamping of civil service and provision of security.
Sadly and regrettably, even late and delayed payment of monthly workers’ salaries that should have been a thing of the past has continued to remain a mirage with some States still owing workers as much as upwards of 4 months salaries.
President Muhammadu Buhari has more than shown that he is a magnanimous, compassionate leader with his approval of a 4th multi-billion naira bailout for states in six years.
The Buhari Media Organisation, BMO , had said in a statement last year jointly signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, that the decision to disburse N656billion to be shared among the 36 States as budget support facility was totally unexpected.
According to the group, “we were pleasantly surprised when Finance Minister 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 N18.2bn in six tranches over a period of 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,” BMO added.
Another 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 a backlog of unpaid salaries.
From all indications the States were not up and doing in respect of their commitment to abide by the purposes for which the facilities were offered them. That is to say that most of them have defaulted in expending the funds for the specific purposes for which they were given, particularly on workers salaries.
The bailout of N 1.7 trn given to States by the Buhari administration last year is undoubtedly a reality, but are State Governors on the same page with Buhari on this matter? Are they playing by the rules? Do they see Buhari’s magnanimity as a political gimmick as was the practice by previous governments.
Or, put differently, isn’t President Buhari unnecessarily spoiling these folks?
Musa Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street Abuja. Email: email@example.com