Paris Club refund: Stakeholders’ views

CHIDIEBERE IWUOHA speaks to a cross section of Nigerians on their views on the controversial Paris Club refund

Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari directed that the Paris Club Refund should be released to states in the Federation. Some stakeholders have since commended the President for the kind gesture, but expressed fears that the money might be diverted by the governors or used for frivolous purposes.

Chief Dr. Fidel Onyeneke, SA Media to the Rector of The Polytechnic, Nekede and the immediate past Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Imo State Council who fired the first shot, commended the President on the idea at this period of economic recession. But he was quick to add that the money should not be used for payment of salaries of workers and pensions because statutorily, governors had the responsibility of taking care of those ones. He further said that if they were asked to use the money for salaries of workers and pensions, it would be an encouragement to them as they would always go cap in hand to the Presidency for financial assistance.

He advised that the money should be used to establish small scale industries where youths would work and ensure the availability of welfare facilities like water, electricity or provide Agric loans to people. “In Imo State, any attempt to use the money to further expand city roads will be a waste, especially when we have rural roads to rehabilitate.

Remember, when you are expanding roads you are going to pull down houses and shanties that are bringing money to people in this period of hardship. Link roads should be identified and graded for food stuffs to be distributed.  In any case, if you have good rural roads, people will be living in their areas and from there, come to work in Owerri and go back. It is worthy to note that none of the expanded roads has been completed since the State Government’s Urban Renewal started.”

Also contributing, Mr Erondu Nnamdi, H.O.D.Public Administration of the Polytechnic made it clear that “No political freedom can satisfy the masses as people will always complain.” He said that the governor had done excellently well in road expansion and should use the money to rehabilitate many bad roads in the city of Owerri and look into the salaries and pensions of civil servants and retired civil servants. He said the Governor of Imo State should start paying civil servants their correct salaries instead of cutting them to 70 or 80 per cent.

A civil servant, George Iwuchukwu pleaded with Governor Rochas Okorocha to use the money to refund all civil servants the monies he had deducted from their salaries in the last one year, since money had been released by the presidency.
Dr Edmund Njemanze was not ready to advise the governors on what to do with the money, especially Governor Rochas Okorocha whom he said had not been listening to Imo people but had been doing things his own way.

He however suggested that rural roads should be constructed  by governors to enable farmers transport food items to their consumers. While Dr Nebo Godwin suggested that the Imo State Governor should convene a meeting of stakeholders that would select a committee of various interests that would eventually come up with projects that would be of interest to the people.

The Director, Office of Polytechnic Development and Federal Polytechnic  Nekede Orator, Dr Nnamdi Anumihe said his view was in line with the directive of Mr President that the money should be used to bail out their states from the biting economic recession.

He said that the president was specific that governors should use it to offset their salaries, wages and pensions, especially in Imo State where civil servants had been receiving 70 or 80 per cent of their salaries and pensioners owed several months of pensions with reckless abandon. “The President in his wisdom recognized this and directed that the money be used for it.”
Osondu Christian also collaborated with him, saying that part of the agreement was to use it and pay outstanding salaries of workers which was why the Finance Minister and the Accountant General of the Federation were directed to release the money immediately.

He was of the view that an agreement was reached before the money was released so that diversions could be avoided, especially given the current state of the nation which had made national earnings to drop.
A farmer, Gideon Onyejekwe said he needed loan from that money to enable him to diversify fully into agriculture and be able to turn out a lot of farm produce.

He said all he had been doing all these years were tilting towards subsistence, but that with agric loan the sky would be his limit. He therefore suggested that governors should consider giving loans to farmers to enable them contribute their own quota towards economic recovery.
Chinedum Nwokorobia advised Imo State governor to use the money to rehabilitate ailing industries, as many had gone moribund and build new ones.

He also said that the governor should set up a machinery to engage youths, maybe through skills acquisition centres, saying it would not make any sense to allow them to roam about the streets after spending a lot of money on free education. While Chris Udoh simply advised governors to use the money judiciously by finding ways it would be beneficial to their people.

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