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Banks Storm Osun House Of Assembly; Insist Gov’t Used Bailout For Salaries, Pensions

By Semiu Okanlawon
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Recipient banks of the bailout fund given to Osun State Government have declared that the fund was strictly used for payment of arrears of salaries, allowances and pensions in line with the Central Bank of Nigeria's (CBN's) guidelines.

This was as the Accountant General of the State said that the Labour leaders said that the pensioners were not at all captured in the bailout fund but the governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, in his magnanimity, decided that the pensioners, having served the state diligently, must be included in the disbursement of the bailout.

Representatives of First Bank of Nigeria (FBN), Wema Bank and Zenith Bank disclosed this at the floor of the Osun State House of Assembly during a presentation on how the concessionary loan was disbursed.

This declaration arose as a result of the fact that Osun State House of Assembly had directed some government officials and organisations to appear before it for the probe of the N34.9billion bailout fund given to the state by the Federal Government.

Among those invited were the Accountant-General, Permanent Secretaries Ministry of Finance, Office of Budget Planning and Ministry of Local Government, Director-General of Debt Management Office, as well as Wema Bank, Zenith Bank and First Bank.

Also invited were Chairmen, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Joint Negotiation Council (JNC), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), traders, as well as representative of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) and Civil Society Organisations (CSO).

The three banks involved told the Osun legislators in session that the bailout was disbursed according to the CBN guidelines and it was duly and diligently disbursed for the purpose it was meant for, which includes payment of arrears of salaries, allowances and the pensions of workers of the state.

In their presentation, the banks said: "We ensured that due diligence was followed. We can confirm that we followed the CBN guidelines in the way and manner the bailout loan was disbursed.

"The loan was used for the purpose it was meant, that is payment of salary arrears, allowances and pensions.

"Also, the figures shown in a slide by the Accountant General and permanent secretary, Local Government affairs, were correct so also are the balance figures in the banks."

The Accountant General, Mr. A. A Kolawole, in his presentation said the bailout fund was judiciously administered by the government without any underhand dealings.

According to him, the amount requested, which covered salary arrears, allowances and pensions, was N64, 327, 492, 947.01.

He stated that the state was however given, N25, 887, 975, 810.26, an amount, which did not include the pension arrears.

Kolawole said the pensioners were thus not captured in the bailout fund released for state, saying it was the governor, who mandated that the pension should be included in the disbursement.

He said: "On July 15, 2015 we requested for, N64.3 billion to take care of all salary arrears, allowances and pension. But we were given N25, 887, 975, 810.26.

"No fund was released for pension and gratuity despite the fact that we included it in our letter to the CBN.

"And we explained this to the pensioners repeatedly but they did not believe us.

"If you look at the letter we wrote for N64bn, it covered every category of staff. They (pensioners) won't have been paid but for the magnanimity of the governor, who said we must include them because they had served the state diligently.

"It will also interest you to note that what I presented here on the floor of the House is the same document I sent to the ICPC and the EFCC.

"ICPC called me to a meeting where I gave them all the documents containing the transactions. When ICPC did not return, I believe it was satisfied with the information. But EFCC did not invite me."

The Permanent Secretary, Local Government Affairs, Mr. Muftau Oluwadare, in his presentation on the amount of bailout given to the local government disclosed that N23, 887, 975, 810.26 was requested from the CBN but N9, 117, 070, 000 was given to them.

According to him, it was this and that of the state that totaled N34bn released to both state and local government.

He said the fund was also used as it was directed by the CBN to pay salary of local government workers, primary school teachers and pension arrears.

In his remark, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Najeem Salam, commended the finance team of the governor for the clear presentation and the Banks for their due diligence in the disbursement process.

Salam said it was not true the insinuations that the House was gingered to investigate the bailout fund based on the letter written by the Senate to investigate how the bailout fund was spent.

He cited a letter dated 12 November 2015 with reference No: LM94/vol4/277 in which the House requested the Accountant General to come forward and update the House on the Sukuk Bond, bailout fund and multilateral loans of the state.

"We have been monitoring the activities of the executive on how the bailout and other loans are being spent.

"If the Senate wants to come for its oversight function, we will not say they shouldn't come. But proper procedure must be followed. It has to come through relevant state authority, which is the state legislative arm.

"We are not fighting with the Senate. We are not saying that the Senate can't perform it's oversight function but things have to be properly done," Salam said.