ADEBIYI ADEDAPO writes on the encounter between the Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose and the Ministry of Finance over the delayed release of the states statutory allocation.
he Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, last Tuesday alleged that the federal government withheld allocation accrued to the state for the month of January and about N1.1 billion Budget Support Fund.
Fayose who was quick to attribute the delay to political fowl play, said federal government was out to frustrate his administration because of his critical comments about the leadership style and ‘anti-people’ policies of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Before long, the Ekiti state chapter of PDP joined the chorus, accusing the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) of masterminding the withholding of the funds to punish the governor and stifle the state.
The party decried the opposition APC in the state for assuming the mouth piece of the Federal Ministry of Finance in trying to explain the reason behind the action of the federal government.
The APC in Ekiti state had in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, claimed that the federal government released a sum of N1.4bn allocation to Ekiti, describing Fayose’s vituperations as ranting of a beleaguered governor.
But Fayose explained that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had remitted the allocation, but immediately reversed the transaction, for unknown reasons.
He alleged that the logjam was deliberate as no excuse could explain why the Federal Ministry of Finance retracted the fund after first credited to the state’s account.
“Doing this in the name of politics and to destabilize this state is not in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is surprising that the commission is probing a sitting governor. We cannot all be in the APC. It is Ayo Fayose and Ekiti’s turn today, it may be another person’s turn tomorrow. We will take all necessary steps to get justice and to have this statutory allocation as it our right.” he said.
According to him, the state had written a letter to the Federal Ministry of Finance, while the state Commissioner for Finance, Toyin Ojo, had also visited there and to the Central Bank of Nigeria, but there was no response.
“We contacted the Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and all the directors at the Ministry of Finance; everybody is shying away from talking to us for the last 10 days now. It is important to note that the allocation and budget support from Abuja is our legitimate right. We have done the needful on our part and nobody from their end has queried the process. I don’t know why the average civil servant in Ekiti state should be made to suffer because of politics, it is not my salary, it is the salary of the Ekiti civil servants,” he said.
The federal government had to react publicly, when he stormed the ministry on Wednesday to seek explanation as to why other states of the federation had received the allocation and Ekiti State did not get.
Although, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Adeosun was at the Federal Executive Council meeting at the time of Fayose’s visit, other officials of the ministry assured that the matter will be resolved in good time.
While briefing journalists, shortly after the meeting, the Governor said Mrs. Adeosun had spoken to him over the matter, and assured that the delay wasn’t politically motivated.
“By the time I got here the Minister has already gone for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting but I met the Special Adviser, who assured me that the matter will be resolved when the Minister is back. I believe I should do a follow up to meet with the Minister of Finance for an update but she actually called me on Tuesday that she just got back but going to look into it today and have it resolved as soon as possible.”
He expressed optimism that the issue would be resolved soon, as he said the Minister assured him of prompt amicable solution.
“She has given me her words and that is it, at her level as a minister, that is good enough. If the promise of the Minister to resolve this issue as quickly as possible fails, I will have to bring it back to the public domain, we are all in the court of the public opinion where the public is able to judge whether justice is served at all times. Governance is beyond all of us but I want to believe that they will do it.”
Meanwhile, contrary to Fayose’s claim, the federal government on Thursday said it was not withholding statutory allocation to Ekiti State, contrary to the claims by Governor Ayodele Fayose.
The Ministry in statement signed by the Director of Information, Mr. Salish Na’Inna Dambatta, described Fayose’s claim as incorrect, saying the ministry has not withheld any statutory allocation due to Ekiti State, or any other state in the country.
Dambatta explained that Ekiti State Government had failed to comply with the necessary requirements for participating in the Budget Support Facility (BSF).
According to him, the BSF is a Conditional Loan Programme to state governments introduced with the view to enhance fiscal prudence and designed particularly to enhance transparency, efficiency in public expenditure and payment of salaries.
The ministry noted that Ekiti state serially defaults in meeting requirement for the BSF.
“This is not the first time of non-compliance by the Ekiti State Government. His administration defaulted in meeting the conditions specified and agreed upon by the 35 state governments that are participating in the programme as contained in the Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) and the Ekiti State Government was warned formally of its failure to comply with the full requirements vide a letter on August 5, 2016, with reference number HMF/FMF/ASG/1/2016.”
“The failure of Ekiti State Government to comply with the requirements and conditions for the Budget Support Facility (BSF) resulted in a letter sent to the Chief of Staff to notify him of the suspension of BSF for EkitiState and it was conveyed to Mr. President before payment to the Ekiti State Government was reinstated.
Dambatta stated further that the Ekiti State Government and all the other participating states are aware of the consequence of failure to comply with the full conditions and it is not the first time that a state would be stopped from accessing the facility due to non-compliance.
“In the course of its normal duties, the Ministry of Finance has the right to query, suspend or withhold funds as part of the conditions of the Budget Support Facility.”
The ministry further explained that the process was for the commissioner of finance of any state or the governor having issues to contact the Federal Ministry of Finance and resolve the issues without resorting to the media because such issues are of a financial nature and therefore, confidential; they are routinely resolved amicably by the parties involved.
“The Federal Ministry of Finance wishes to restate very strongly that the Budget Support Facility is a conditional programme and the federal government would not be intimidated or threatened in the discharge of its duties,” Dambatta said.
However, as the Ekiti state government and the Ministry of Finance argued back and forth, the Ekiti State workforce appears to be bearing the full brunt of the problem.
Workers in the state have appealed to the federal government to release the allocations due to the state and stop toying with the welfare of citizens to settle political scores.
Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ekiti state chapter, Mr. Ade Adesanmi, said “We want to urge the Federal Government to consider thousands of workers in the state who have to receive their salaries and take care of their families and children and other sundry responsibilities. They should not use politics to oppress and impoverish innocent workers in the name of political manipulations.”
However while briefing newsmen in Abuja on Friday, Fayose, revealed that the State had received an official Communication from the Federal Ministry of Finance releasing the State allocation earlier seized for just no reason.
According to him,”I don’t want to join issues with anybody on the allocation,it is a statutory allocation for all the States, I can confirm to you here that by Tuesday next week, I will get the bank alert for the money, an official communication on the release was passed to me just yesterday(Thursday).
“Whatever reasons that have given is not as important as the letter. My Ekiti people will get their alert on Tuesday. The money is statutory. My Ekiti people your money is on the way.”