By CrossRiverWatch Admin
Recently, the Federal Government in Nigeria released the second tranche of the Paris Club Refund to the 36 states of the federation.
The states received varying sums ranging from as high as Ten Billion Naira for some states like Rivers, Kano, Akwa Ibom, Lagos and Bayelsa to as low as a little above four billion for states like Ebonyi, Gombe, Nassarawa and Ekiti States.
Cross River State received Six Billion and Seventy -Five million Naira.
According to the Federal Government, the funds were released to State Governments as part of the wider efforts to stimulate the economy and were specifically designed to support states in meeting salary and other obligations, thereby alleviating the challenges faced by workers.
In a press conference on Saturday by the Head of Service of Cross River State , the Government made it clear that the Governor, Senator Prof. Ben Ayade had given approval for the Paris Club Refund to be used for the payment of gratuities, pensions and salaries of public and civil servants.
The Governor directed the Commissioner for Finance and Accountant General to immediately commence processes for the payment of gratuity to 2014 retirees.
This has once again proven that the Governor Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade places high premium on the welfare of workers in Cross River State.
It is on record that the governor is one of the very few governors who have been consistent in paying workers’ salaries up to date and sometimes even pay workers’ salaries in advance.
For this the governor has won accolades and was awarded the most workers friendly governor by the organized labor.
As directed by the governor, a breakdown of the spending of the Paris Club Refund is as follows:
2014 gratuities – NGN2.49 billion. 2015 outstanding pensions and gratuities of non-ministerial agencies – NGN1.4 billion, July 2015 outstanding salaries – NGN2.1 billion and July 2015 pensions – NGN520 million.
The total of this is N6.5 billion and is thus clear that this is above the released sum of N6.075 billion.
The accountability displayed in the spending of the Paris Club refund by the Ayade administration is truly worthy of commendation.
At a time where expenditure by many other states is shrouded in secrecy and backlog of salaries, pensions and gratuities are left unpaid, Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade has demonstrated uncommon transparency and accountability in the spending of the Paris Club Refund.
Accountability is at the heart of every government and is key to development.
With the governor’s commitment to accountability, the development of Cross River State is a done deal.
Commitment to the welfare of workers is equally an essential part of ensuring development in the state. In this, the governor has also demonstrated that he is committed to ensuring that he builds a workforce that can compete favorably with their contemporaries globally.
As impressive as all these sound, it thus however brings to the fore a few challenges.
If the entire Paris Club Refund has been spent on gratuities, pensions and salaries of public and civil servants, exclusive of contractual debts, capital projects funding, waste management, security challenges and many more obligations of government, how then does Governor Ayade achieve all these other objectives of governance at a time of national recession?
This is the million dollar question. This is where the Ayade magic comes into play.
The innovative financial engineering and creative funding options employed by this government can only be a product of intellectual ingenuity that Sen. Prof. Ben Ayade represents.
We cannot also rule out the essence of divine exploit working through the governor in achieving all these.
With the magnitude of projects like the signature projects, the Bakassi Katsina-Ala Super Highway and the Bakassi Deep Sea Port, not to mention the industrialization of the state and many other projects dotting the state, one cannot help but give a standing ovation to the governor for a job well done.
Would it be out of place then to suggest that a percentage of subsequent tranches of the Paris Club Refund should also be invested in these productive capital projects which have the potentials to further expand our economy rather than only on recurrent expenditure?
It will be sheer foolhardy to eat all we have today and not invest in tomorrow.
It is indeed selfish not to invest in the future, leave legacies for the future generation just because we want to meet the temporal needs of the present as even the Bible says “man shall not live by bread alone.”
Importantly also, as it is already a tradition in Cross River State, we must continue to save for the rainy day.
In this vein, at least ten percent of subsequent tranches of the Paris Club Refund must be saved away for the rainy day.
Saving is a universal principle and it makes economic sense in the long term.
Finally, Cross Riverians must appreciate the policy thrust of the present administration which is anchored around revolutionary infrastructure development and industrialization to change the fortunes of the state and transform the economic status of its people.
As the governor works tirelessly to achieve this vision, we must give our unalloyed support to this administration and be part of the making of history in our state. This is the ultimate essence of our being.
Emmanuel Etim is a development consultant based in Nigeria.
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