The Bayelsa government, on Wednesday, admitted the receipt of additional N6.6billion from the Federal Government as part of the Paris Club debt refunds to states. This admission was sequel to pressure from Sahara Reporters, following disclosure by the Federal Ministry of Finance on the state’s share of the first tranche of the N516.38 billion Paris Club debt refund.
The government's admission was made at a transparency briefing attended by a compliant crop of reporters, where the Deputy Governor, Rear-Admiral John Jonah (retd.), disclosed the receipt of additional N6.61 billion in March. This was in contrast to the government's initial denial that extra funds were received.
“The Paris Club refund to states is not a gift from the Federal Government to pay salaries. It is state governments’ money that was deducted without consulting the states. At a meeting, it was decided that the money should be paid in two installments.A chart was drawn up and the entitlements of every state were written," said the Deputy Governor.
However, he claimed, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria decided that if the money was released to states for payment of salaries, there would be too much money in circulation. As a result, added Rear-Admiral Jonah,it was decided that the money would be paid in four installments, which was 25% at a time.
“When the first 25% was paid, Bayelsa state could have got N21.168 billion, but then, when the money came, they only released to us, N14.5 billion. The first tranche was supposed to have been N21.168 billion. But again, that N14.5 billion was not for the state government alone, because out of the amount, N1.3 billion was for the local government councils.So, what actually came to the state government was the balance of N13.2 billion,” he said.
Bayelsa State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Mr. John Obuebeite, who described reports suggesting that the state got N24.89billion as a rumor, then directed the carefully selected reporters, whom he promised to pay N10,000 for favorable reportage, to angle their reports in a way that would not focus on the Paris Club refunds.
He suggested that their reports should put the accent on the state's Internally Generated Revenue hitting the N1 billion mark.