Governors of Nigeria’s 36 states are seeking to access about $3.2 billion from the World Bank to curtail the fiscal challenge faced across the states, the governors’ forum has said.
The revelation was made on Thursday morning by some of the governors after their meeting at the Banquet Hall of the presidential villa in Abuja.
The meeting was convened by the Nigeria Governors Forum.
The chairman of the forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, told journalists that the forum decided to invite the country director of World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud, to brief them “on the money lying down in the World Bank which largely belongs to state governments but had not been accessed”.
Mr. Yari said because of the cumbersome procedure in accessing the funds, most of the governors did not even know they had such funds there.
He said it was the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, who sold the idea to his colleagues to invite the World Bank official to come and “educate the governors to know that these monies are there especially in the kind of situation we are in, the difficulties we are all facing so that the states can move forward in terms of infrastructural development and other matters in our respective states”.
The NGF chair said the governors raised issues as regards the provision of counterpart funding being a requirement to accessing the fund. He said the World Bank officials promised to look into the matter.
“We discussed sincerely on the issue of counterpart funding. It is more difficult for us to fulfil our own part because we are struggling to see how we can pay salaries; that is the most difficult aspect of it. And they promised that they will look into it and immediately that is done, the states will move fast to ensure we access it,” Mr. Yari said.
“Also, they agreed that they will give us the details state by state; how much is lying down for each state and how we are going to access it.
“As of now they are ready to facilitate a kind of workshop to the state governors and the commissioners of finance and other staff, so that we can know how best to move and access these funds for the betterment of our respective states,” Mr. Yari said.
Mr. El-Rufai, who also spoke with reporters, said the World Bank portfolio for the states for the 2016 was $4.25billion, out of which, he said, “$3.25billion dollars is lying there undisbursed”.
The Kaduna governor said the funds were idle because the states were not meeting their conditions or not moving fast enough to draw this $3.25billion dollars.
“You know $3.25billion dollars can do a lot to improve the lives and livelihood of our citizens in the state and the World Bank has expressed its flexibility to look into the challenges we are facing as well as the procedure or bottleneck to ease the access of these monies,” he said.
He also said the World Bank wanted the states to withdraw the money as quickly as possible so that citizens would get its benefits including from “health to education and the rural access, agriculture and the revival of livestock and water supply”.
“These are the areas that most of these funds are dedicated and we all need the money because we are all broke, so we are going to work very hard to try to get these monies in trust,” Mr. El-Rufai said.
Support for full deregulation of petroleum downstream
The Nigerian governors also gave their support to the recent full deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry which led to price increase of the product from N86.50 to N146 per liter.
The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, is currently on strike over the hike in the price.
Speaking on the matter, in the early hours of Thursday, Ogun state governor, Ibikunle Amosun, said the deregulation should be considered as “sacrifices that must be paid by all”.
Mr. Amosun said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari means well and the governors also mean well for the country.
“If truly we are caring for the masses we must believe that subsidy only serves the rich, those that are getting us the fuel, not the masses.
“We believe that such money that have been saved from the subsidy would be used for infrastructural development particularly for social services for all of the down-trodden masses.
“we are putting our weight behind it, while urging the federal government and indeed the state governments to see how we can ameliorate all the problems the masses would probably go through in the short run because in the long run they would be the better for it.
“We supported it because we believe that it is in the interest of the masses,” Mr. Amosun said.