by Usman Alabi
The release of the first tranche of the Paris Club Refund N522.7 billion was done in December 2016, The first tranche of the Refund which represents 25 per cent of claims was disbursed subject to an agreement by state governments that 50 per cent of any amount received would be earmarked for the payment of salaries and pensions. But there are still cries of some states owing backlog of salaries and pensions.
There are indications that the Federal government is about to approve the release of the second trache of the Refund which has been said to be over N500 billion. This is coming against the backdrop fraudulent allegations against some of the governors on the use of the funds, there are reports that most of the governors cannot account for the use of the funds, some had been accused of using the project to engage in white elephent projects which have no direct impact on the lives of the people.
There are also reports that about seven governors are under investigations on this and that some of the governors even hired conmsultants who negotiated about 10 to 30 per cent share of the funds when released.
But even if the President is committed to reflating the economy, one of the reasons he gave for the release of the funds, we must be sure that it is actually the economy that is reflated not the pocket of a few, the reality is that most of the states are highly indebted and most of them owe backlog of not only salaries but also pensions, hence if one of the agreements the NGF had with the Federal government is to use 50 per cent of the Refund to pay outstanding salaries and pension, there is then no much improvement, the situation has not change in most of these states. Yet most of the states are finding it difficult to disclose what the refund was used for.
There are several calls from different quarters including the civil society and media, calling on the government to publish details of the Paris Club Refund spending.
SERAP particularly is in the forefront of this call on not only the states but also FG to make known the full details of Paris Club Refund spending and that states should disclose exactly what they spend the funds on.
Labour organizations like the Nigerian Labour Congress and the trade Union congress are also not satisfied with how the governors spent the first tranche of the fund, they advised that the Federal government unravel the mystery behind how these states spent the first tranche before releasing the second tranche.
But the the question is why is it difficult to make known the details of spending if not for anything but to put at bay the various allegations, the Paris Club Refund is not the personal fund of governors, it is public fund, hence the people have the right to know what these funds were used for.
All the people are asking for is for the governors to disclose the details of their account as regards this fund. Be accountable and transparent!
Before the federal government releases the second tranche of the refund, it is important that they compel the states to disclose in full the details of what they spent the first tranche on, this should constitute a test of credit worthiness.
There is nothing wrong in having dedicated websites for this purpose, where they publish the details of what the refund was spent on. FG should set up monitoring and evaluation team to track the disbursed fund and ascertain if the funds were used in tandem with the agreement. Transparency and accountable is not negotiable, it is not a privilege, the people have the right to know what their commonwealth was spent on.
Governors that cannot account for the Paris Club Refund should be brought to book. If we must reflate the economy, we must be sure that it is the economy that is reflated not the pockets of a few.