The governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, has said lack of funds has hindered state governors from carrying out their responsibilities in other sectors such as health, electricity, education, roads, among others.
This, he said, was because state governors have been limited to the payment of salaries alone in their respective states. He added that they cannot perform any magic as funds are needed “for these things”.
According to a report, Mr Yari said this to journalists after the governors’ meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.
Mr Yari, who is also the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, also called for the examination of the national income in the last 14 years to enable them to agree on the contentious issue of minimum wage implementation.
The committee working on the minimum wage is concluding negotiations on the matter. The federal government had set September for rolling out a new minimum wage for workers.
The governors are insisting on the overwhelming impact of the implementation of the new wage if approved while the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is proposing a minimum wage of N65, 000 for workers.
“We have a committee of six which represented us in discussions in the committee headed by labour minister,” he said.
“The committee is yet to give us the final report. When they give us the final report, for which they have our mandate to present our position, and the position most likely is to look at the record of up to 14 years.
“For instance, in global practice, in your income, how much are you spending as salary? So that we can start from there. They have given us interim report that at the federal government level, over 82 per cent is being spent on overhead which cannot move the country forward in terms of infrastructure development and development that we need now.
“So, on our own part, we are saying we are going to look at how our income are trained from our final account from 14 years ago so that we can come up and stay in the middle.
“I don’t think you people voted us for only to pay salaries. You are looking for good roads, electricity, education and others. So, we can’t do magic. It’s only when we have the funds (to) do all those things.”
Mr Yari also disclosed that the governors also deliberated on the way the anti-graft agencies have been handling the fight against (corruption) and resolved that they must adhere strictly on due process.
He said that the governors resolved that both the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corruption and other Related Offences Commission must adhere strictly to due process.
Speaking on the freezing of Akwa Ibom and Benue states government accounts by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Yari told journalists that even President Muhammadu Buhari will not support the action.
“We believe strongly that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari would not sit down and supervise this illegality in the system.
“What we are saying is that we all support the government to fight corruption because it is endemic and has retarded the nation for over six decades. Definitely, it was part of what we discussed.
“What we are saying now is that we are going to support the government in terms of what it is doing to fight corruption, but due process must be respected in whatever action the agencies are going to take in the name of fighting corruption. That is the position of the governors,” he said.
The EFCC had on August 7, frozen the bank accounts of both states trapping workers’ salaries, pensions and crippling public activities – an act which sparked outrage from Nigerians.
Terver Akase, a spokesperson for Venue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, said the banks did not cite any reason for freezing the accounts, saying they only told the state’s attorneys general that documents relating to the measure were “confidential.”
Mr Akase also said the accounts were holding salaries of thousands of workers, as well as pensions.
The anti-graft agency had also investigated Akwa Ibom finances, and the residence of its finance commissioner was said to have been raided by anti-graft agents a few weeks ago.
However, the commission lifted restrictions on bank accounts run by two state governments.
But while Benue officials have confirmed unblocking of all the accounts affected, Akwa Ibom was only able to confirm a partial relaxing of limited access imposed on its accounts in commercial banks.
Only two days ago, the Osun State government commenced the implementation of full salary payments to all civil servants in the state after three years.
The state started ‘modulated’ salary payment in June 2015 when the state faced an economic crisis. This year’s June salary payment marked the third year anniversary of half salary payments in the state.
Prior to this time, only workers below level 7 received full salary payment. Workers between level 8 and 12 had been receiving 75 per cent of their salaries while the state’s staff on grade level 13 and above had been receiving 50 per cent of their salaries in line with the structure.