States blame Minister of State for Finance for the financial crisis in FAAC.
The Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting was aborted on Monday, as the paucity of funds that has hit the Federal Government in recent times remained unresolved.
Members of the Forum of Commissioners of Finance of Nigeria (FCFN), made up of Commissioners of Finance and Accountants General from the 36 states of the federation, who attended an emergency meeting convened by the Accountant General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla, to hurriedly take a resolution, left Abuja in frustration and disappointment.
The Minister of State for Finance, Yerima Ngama, who is also the Chairman of the FAAC, and who the Commissioners walked out on during a June meeting, boycotted the meeting, despite being the convener.
The Chairman of the FCFN and Ebonyi State Commissioner of Finance, Timothy Odaah, who accused the Federal Government of deliberately starving states of funds through Mr. Yerima, said one of the conditions the state governments gave during the last aborted meeting was that the commissioners should not be re-invited until the situation improved. .
“Today, we have come for the second time within the month of September and the FAAC session has been stalemated,” a visibly angry Mr. Odaah told reporters. “We were invited by Minister of State for Finance who is the Chairman of FAAC, but we have not seen him.”
Mr. Odaah said Mr. Otunla had “addressed a few of our executives, and told us nothing is available. We appreciate the efforts of AGF, but the Minister has chosen to treat us with levity on our case.
“We have been slighted, because he has shown contempt against us to the extent that the interest of our states and local governments is suffering. He has treated us with contempt and treated out states and local governments with contempt.
“One condition we gave was that we should not be re invited until the situation improves. But right now, there is no improvement. We agreed that there would be no further augmentation in order to clear the backlog. But, up till now, there is no augmentation and no clearing of the backlog.
“The worst effect of this is that it is having a retrospective effect on the states and local governments. These uncleared backlogs are what the states rely on for their budget in order to secure financial commitment and handle security issues and issues of contractors.
“It is like the states are being starved of funds by the Minister by giving us the theory of Karma: Handle the dog with great starvation and whichever way you want him to turn he will turn. We are not dogs, we respect Mr. President and are calling on him to hear this,” he lamented.
Mr. Odaah told reporters that Mr. Ngama had asked the AGF to inform them that the meeting would not hold, as they were merely invited to be briefed of developments on the Federal Government’s efforts to mobilize the required funding shortfall.
Recounting what transpired during the last meeting when the minister said the Federal Government could not draw from the reserves to meet statutory allocations, Mr. Odaah said it was disappointing that no further augmentation has been paid in line with the resolution reached to allow the clearance of the backlog.
“All we ask for is for the backlog to be cleared and we get along. It is the reason why the Commissioners of Finance and Accountants General with directive of the governors cannot review our positions. To have invited us without any improvement in the situation is a great slight, and shows that the Minister does not brief the President.
“We know the President as a good leader with listening ears, who would have attended to these problems immediately if he was aware. But it is like Ngama goes to tell him he will control us. We do not support this situation. The Minister should be competent enough and show that level of competency. The Minister is running FAAC as his own show. FAAC is degenerating into a different thing,” Mr. Odaah lamented.
On the way out of the financial impasse, the Ebonyi State Commissioner said the state representatives would wait until the money (owed) became available for sharing, underlining the need for the President to be properly briefed about the situation with a view to finding a lasting solution.
Mr. Ngama did not pick calls to his phone, neither did he respond to a text message by PREMIUM TIMES to seek his clarification on the issues.
After the FAAC plenary session ended in a stalemate and a walkout on Mr. Ngama in June over allegations of unpaid N160 billion arrears for the February allocation, President Goodluck Jonathan had constituted a reconciliation committee headed by the Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, who was able resolve the crisis following a meeting with the state governors, before the crisis resurfaced last month, without the full allocation for August.
The Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said last week that about N75billion of the allocation was still outstanding as unsettled to the states, blaming the situation on shortfall in revenue earnings in recent times as a result of the growing incidence of oil theft and pipeline vandalism.
Assuring that the payment of the outstanding allocation was in process, the Minister said part of the resolutions of the governors was to constitute a committee headed by Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, to tackle in a decisive and sustainable manner the root causes of the revenue challenges the country was facing, including illegal bunkering and oil theft.
“We have an economy that is prudently managed,” Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said. “We will continue to do so. That is not to say that we don’t have our challenges. We have never shied away from talking about that. It’s not to say that from time to time we don’t have some revenue shortfall, which we will make up.”
“We have the resources to manage the economy, and whenever that shortfall comes, we have made provisions to be able to take care of it. That is why you have not seen government ask anybody to come and help the Nigerian economy. We don’t need it, because we are able to do that,” the Minister boasted.
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