By Emmanuel Mogbede
The Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) has debunked claims by Governor Godwin Obaseki that the Federal Government printed between N50 billion – N60 billion in March.
In a statement by PGF chairman, Gov.Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi on Sunday in Abuja, said Obaseki’s claims did not reflect the true position of things.
Obaseki had claimed that the Federal Government printed the amount to bridge the shortfall in the distribution of federation revenues to the three tiers of government in March.
But Bagudu said at first, the impression the forum got was that it was an off-the-record remark made in a private meeting by Obaseki.
He, however, said the forum was shocked to see yet another response from Obaseki to the rebuttal by the Finance Minister, insisting that the March 2021 FAAC was augmented via the printing of currency.
“Given the significance of the statement from a sitting governor and the possible negative impact it has brought to the credibility of both the Federal and State Governments in managing government finances.
“The forum is obliged to put a statement out to set the records clear, and to the best of our knowledge, the total distributable statutory revenue for the month of March 2021 was N596.94 billion,” he said.
Bagudu explained that due to the shortfall in gross statutory revenues by N43.34 billion compared to the previous month, an augmentation was made in the sum of N8.65 billion from the Forex Equalization Fund Account.
Meanwhile, he added that this brought the total distributable revenue to N605.59 billion.
Furthermore, he added that federation revenues distributed monthly primarily consisted of mineral revenues from the sales of oil and gas, as well as non-mineral revenues from customs and excise duties, company income tax and value-added tax.
However, he admitted that there were periods when the country experienced significant fiscal shocks in federation revenues, but said the shocks were offset by other savings.
These, the PGF chairman said were serviced from the federation account, including distributions from the domestic excess crude proceeds and the foreign excess crude savings account.
“These payments started since 2008 when the country first experienced fiscal shocks from the fallouts of the global financial crisis of 2008 to 2009.
“As a trained economist who has been a governor since 2016, Obaseki is aware of all the support states have received from President Muhammadu Buhari,” he said.
This, he noted was especially in coping with the shocks that had resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant economic recession.
He added that not only had states received budget support from the Federal Government, but they had also received bail-out support to meet salary obligations and infrastructure refunds.
He said this was implemented in the overall interest of Nigerians without discrimination on the basis of party affiliation.
“This is why it’s unfortunate and disingenuous to allege preferential treatment of APC states when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governed states are even greater beneficiaries of all the support,” the PGF chairman said.
He said there was nothing exceptional in this current review of economic orthodoxy because almost every Central Bank in the world had taken steps to support their governments in coping with the effects of COVID-19.
“This unfortunate and inaccurate assertion by Gov. Obaseki becomes even more worrisome when juxtaposed with the official statement released after the meeting of PDP governors last week,” he said.
He recalled that the PDP governors at its meeting had called for restructuring and greater devolution of powers to the states.
He said it appeared that matters that required collective resolve of all leaders had been turned into purely partisan affairs.
Bagudu said while the right to criticise and hold alternative views was acknowledged, all state governments had been equitably treated by both the Federal Government and national institutions, particularly the CBN.
He said the CBN had designed and implemented various interventions which helped in stimulating economic activity in all states and had contributed to the country’s quick emergence from recession in 2016 and 2021.
“Such interventions include the Anchor Borrowers Programme, Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme, Small and medium scale enterprises support scheme as well as expansion of pre-existing Programme such as Commercial Agriculture Credit.
“The world economy had been challenged in the last few years with fiscal and monetary authorities responding in various ways to support their respective economies.
“In all situations, the Central Banks had responded to ease credit and in a number of cases where interest rates were near zero, quantitative easing measures were undertaken to expand the money supply to the economy.
“Given the constraints faced by the Nigerian economy, the CBN had responded commendably well while still working hard on exchange and interest rates,” Bagudu said.
He urged the CBN governor, management and staff not to be distracted and expressed gratitude to President Buhari and his team for the support and partnership extended to all the federating units.
He noted that in addition to occasional meetings with President Buhari, the National Economic Council, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, meet monthly to discuss all issues transparently and exhaustively.
“It would therefore be helpful to admonish ourselves as leaders to work collaboratively in tackling these challenges rather than resort to cheap and demagogic point scoring in our quest to rescue the economy,” he said.