By Tobi Soniyi , Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The presidency has described as false, banal and ludicrous the claim by the Peoples Democratic Party’s spokesman, Olisa Metuh, that the funds released to states by President Muhammadu Buhari to enable them pay their workers’ salaries came from savings made by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
But in a counter statement, the People Democratic Party is insisting that the LNG bail out fund approved by President Buhari to the state governors is part of the savings by the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President, (Media & Publicity), Mr Femi Adesina, the presidency deplored the attempt by the PDP and its agents to create what it described as “an unnecessary controversy” over the well-intentioned effort by Buhari to give some relief to state governments and long-suffering public sector workers.
The statement said: ”We also reject the banal and ludicrous demand by the PDP Spokesman, Olisa Metuh that the PDP Government which was ousted by Nigerians at the last general elections for running the country aground, be given some credit for “saving” the funds that were disbursed as part of the intervention package approved by President Buhari.”
The presidency said Metuh’s claim that a significant amount of the funds came from savings accumulated in the Excess Crude Account and handed over to the Buhari Administration was completely false and deliberately intended to mislead the public.
“As we clearly stated yesterday, the funds approved by President Buhari for sharing to the three tiers of government on Monday came entirely from dividends and taxes paid to the Federation Account by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company (NLNG), not from the Excess Crude Account.” the statement added.
The presidency said that contrary to the claim by the PDP, the disbursed NLNG dividends and taxes were paid into the Federation Account in June this year and confirmed by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s statement to the federal government on July 7, 2015.
It said that the funds could not therefore be considered “savings” by the Jonathan administration which left office in May, 2015, as disingenuously claimed by Metuh.
It said that instead of being repeatedly impugned and castigated by the PDP and its agents for honestly telling Nigerians that the nation’s treasury had been immensely depleted and its resources looted or squandered under previous administrations, Buhari should be commended for the openness, transparency and accountability which he had brought to the management of national funds.
The statement further read: “It was in keeping with that disposition, that the President promptly disclosed the accrual of the NLNG dividends and taxes to the Federation Account at his recent meeting with State Governors and approved the convening of a special session of the FAAC to share it.
“As a state governor who was present at the meeting remarked, under past administrations, the states never had the benefit of such disclosures.
“Metuh and others who now ungratefully see Monday’s disbursement of the NLNG proceeds as their ‘legitimate’ earnings and not a ‘bailout’ from the Federal Government may wish to tell Nigerians if such earnings were ever disclosed by the PDP federal government and paid to the states in the past.
“The public may also wish to note that the Buhari Administration itself has never referred to the actions which it has taken to ease the current financial difficulties of states as a ‘bailout’.”
But it would appear that the controversy over the source of the bailout fund is not yet over. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is insisting that contrary to claims by the Presidency, the $2.1 billion Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) component of the bailout for states was actually saved by the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan-led PDP administration.
The party said in actual fact the LNG dividend stood at $5.6 billion even before the handover date of May 29th and would have been shared but for the insistence of former President Goodluck Jonathan that it be left for the incoming administration to manage
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh in statement on Wednesday thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for making it possible for Nigerians to know that monies were left behind by the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
The party said despite attempts by the APC-led administration to hide the truth, the issuance of the bailout with funds from the LNG proceeds and the Excess Crude Account (ECA) has exposed the fact that the PDP administration actually left behind huge sums of money, contrary to the impression earlier given to Nigerians and the international community that the new administration met a virtually empty treasury.
“It is gratifying to note that gradually the evidence of monies left behind by the PDP-led administration is coming to public light despite effort by the new government to hide the facts.
The public had been made aware that $2 billion was left in the ECA for which the Accountant–General and the APC confirmed approvals for the withdrawal of $1.7 billion.
“We know that surely, though slowly, a lot of other monies saved by the PDP and which are now under the control of the APC government will eventually be unveiled by this administration themselves and without any effort on our part whatsoever.
The PDP says it believes that President Buhari must have realized that he was earlier misdirected on the actual state of the nation’s finances and should as a respected statesman apologize to his predecessor, President Goodluck Jonathan who also ensured that he handed over to him a peaceful and stable environment to operate.
The party said “President Buhari as a leader on whose shoulders lies the mandate of the Nigerian people and the burden of governance for the next four years should strive to disentangle himself from the intrigues, propaganda, blackmail and machinations of some leaders in his party and focus on delivering on his campaign promises for which he was elected.”
The PDP also urged the APC as a party in power to rise above board and endeavor to be honest in its dealings, especially if it wants Nigerians to take it seriously. It said a situation where a ruling party will resort to a dishonorable act of altering a statement where it earlier acknowledged the approval for the withdrawal from the ECA, just to hide the truth, leaves much to be desired.
Finally, we want the public to note that all our statements and engagements have been based on facts and issues. Consequently, we urge the Presidency to focus on issues and stop trending on personal insults, threats and abuses
Meanwhile the Labour Party (LP) has accused President Muhammadu Buhari of setting a very bad precedence by releasing over N700 billon as bailout fund to states outside the normal budgetary process.
The party said Buhari has succumbed to sheer blackmail by some state governors just as former President Goodluck Jonathan did when he came onboard in 2011.