Thursday, January 23, 2014

We didn’t contribute to 2014 budget, say governors


Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi
The Nigeria Governors Forum on Thursday morning (today) said its members were not part of the team  that  drafted  the 2014  budget .
It also said that its members were not happy with the way they were being invited for the National Economic Council meetings   only to be informed in Abuja that they (meetings) had been cancelled.
These were contained in  a  communique issued after the meeting  in Abuja.
The meeting was presided over by the Chairman of the forum and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi.
The communique reads, “The forum notes that NEC meetings   have been postponed  for five consecutive months.
“It has become embarrassing that governors are invited to Abuja for NEC meetings only to be told of their  cancellation after their arrival  without any tangible reason; yet there are issues of urgent and utmost national importance that ought to have been addressed at such meetings.
“Consequently, we have a 2014 national budget without input from the states resulting in  a lack of sense of ownership of the budget  process
“In furtherance of the issues raised above, the forum reiterates that the Nigerian National  Petroleum Corporation and  the Ministry of Finance are obliged to brief the governors formally on the non-remittance of $49.8bn into the Federation Account.
“In the absence of   NEC meetings, the platform for resolving these issue,s becomes non-existent.”
The forum also noted with concern, the developments in Rivers State and called on President Goodluck Jonathan to call for the meeting of the Police Council to discuss the matter and other related issues.
The NGF  agreed to hold a retreat in Lagos in March this year.
The meeting, which started at 8pm ended at 12:02am on Thursday.
States that were represented at the meeting were   Rivers, Edo, Ekiti, Jigawa, Ogun, Nasarawa, Sokoto, Borno, Lagos, Imo and Kano.
Vice-President Namadi Sambo who chairs the NEC had on Wednesday again  called off the meeting with the 36 state governors and other members of the council fixed for today.
The other NEC members who would have been  part of the meeting are the ministers of Justice, National Planning, Finance, and Federal Capital Territory as well as the Central Bank Governor.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice-President, Umar Sani, confirmed the cancellation of the meeting to one of our correspondents.
Sani however did not give reason for the development.
But a Presidency source claimed that the meeting was postponed because the Ministry of National Planning, which serves as the  secretariat of the council, could not reach most of the members.
He said, “The meeting was not postponed out of fear. You know the National Planning ministry is the secretariat of the council and it could not reach many of those who are supposed to attend the meeting.”
The PUNCH however gathered that the cancellation was to buy time and prevent a face-off between the  factions of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum led by  governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Jonah Jang of Plateau State.
One of the governors said that the Federal Government did not have any reason for cancelling    the meeting.
The governor, who asked not to be named, said it was obvious that the government was dodging the meeting in order to avoid controversial issues that   might be raised by them.
“No cogent reason was given. Debt is increasing, there are   irreconcilable accounts, oil rents are  decreasing and there is selective distribution of ecological funds. They (government) know there is no defense for the issues  that might  be raised at the meeting.”
Since the polarisation of the NGF and the defection of five Peoples Democratic Party governors to the All Progressives Congress,    Sambo had for five months been unable to convene    NEC meetings which always hold on  the last Thursday of every month.
The NEC has the constitutional role of advising the President on the nation’s economy and the economic programmes of the various governments in the country.
A meeting of the council earlier scheduled for December was   hurriedly put off apparently because of the decision of some governors to confront the Vice-President on some economic issues.
The PUNCH however learnt on Wednesday,   governors, especially those  in Amaechi-led  faction of the  NGF met in Abuja on Wednesday to reach a common ground on how to confront   the Federal Government on issues facing the economy, especially the ‘missing’   $49.8bn crude oil money.
The faction led by Amaechi was getting ready for a stormy meeting with Sambo before the Vice- President called off the meeting.
The agenda  of the faction’s meeting sighted by The  PUNCH,  showed that the  members  were to  discuss their Action Plans for 2014 and review the agenda for the NEC meeting.
But the Jang faction of the NGF   described as ‘frivolous and inciting’, the content of the  statement issued by   Amaechi- led Governors’ Forum after its Wednesday meeting .
In a statement released in Abuja by its  Media Officer, Mr. Kassim Yakubu,    the Jang  group said   the   issued raised  by the Amaechi-led forum, lacked credibility.
It said, “From the day Gov. Amaechi  joined the   opposition group of governors, he has sought all avenues and opportunity to attack the Federal Government. All the attacks so far have been political and self-serving with 2015 in mind.”
The Jang group  stated that the NGF  was created to work in tandem with the Federal Government for the good of the people and not to oppose it.
It therefore called on Nigerians to disregard the   communiqué by the Amaechi-led NGF  because it did not represent the feelings and thoughts of all the 36 state  governors.

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