Budget support facility deductions too high for us ― Governors

• Consider right of way waiver for telecoms

Governors of the 36 states of the federation have, again, rejected what they see as the excessive deductions from the allocations of states, which is benefitted from the federal government’s budget support facility.

Emerging from their regular Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) monthly meeting in Abuja, late on Wednesday night, the governors insisted that there should be a review, even though the high deductions have not stopped the benefiting states from honouring their obligations to repay.

Recall that except for Lagos, the other 35 states of the federation accepted a total loan of N614 billion from the federal government.

Speaking on the matter after the meeting, the Chairman of the NGF and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said the reconciliation of the loan between the federal government and states was ongoing.

ALSO READ: Governors agree to address Right of Way challenges

He added: “On budget support facilities specifically, states are already honouring in their obligations. They are already paying back what is owed to the federal government.

“The question of the amount is something that we will continue to review. It is our view that we should be paying a lot less what we are paying, but that is something that has not been addressed yet.

“But that has not stopped us from honouring the obligation to the federal government that lent the resources to us at the time that they did.”

He further said: “On reconciliation for budget support facilities, that is something that has been handled. We have come up with our own recommendations of special fund generally, not just budget support facilities.”

The NGF boss revealed that, following an appeal by the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, some governors will consider waiving the right of way fees for telecommunications operators even though the minister has not asked for it.

He said Pantami, however, requested the states to provide business-friendly policies in their states for telecoms to thrive.

Fayemi added: “The main demand with the minister is that we maintain the fee agreed in the year 2013 at the National Economy Council which is N145 per linear meter in the state.

“The context within which the issue of waiver came up is what has been offered in Kaduna state, for example, where the state government has waived the right of way fee and that is not compulsory or a decision of the forum or even in demand from the minister.

“That should be a condition for broadband penetration or fibre optic laying in our states. It is just that where we think that might be feasible, then states will look at the possibility of doing this in our states,

“But the key demand which we are all interested in pursuing is to ensure that we do not increase the right of way fee beyond what has been generally agreed by governors and NEC.”

A communique read by Fayemi at the end of the meeting stated: “We, members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), at our meeting held today at the NGF Secretariat Abuja, deliberated  on several issues and resolved as follows:

“The Forum received an update from the NGF Secretariat on Health priorities for the year 2020, including the implementation of the Seattle Commitment signed by the Forum at a 2-day High-Level Roundtable on Primary Health Care and Human Capital Development convened in Nov 2019 by Aliko Dangote and the Bill and Melinda Gates.

“The forum also received update on the Lassa fever epidemic and the Chinese virus that is currently conflagrating around the world.

“Governors agreed to carry out immediate actions on the implementation of the Seattle Declaration including the constitution of a multisectoral Primary Health Care Under One Roof (PHCUOR) implementation committee, quarterly review of PHC performance in State Executive Council meetings, review of States‘ performance on the Abuja Commitment and organisation of advocacy meetings with traditional and religious leaders.

“The Forum received an update from the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami, in the company of the Executive Vice Chairman/CEO of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta; Mrs Funsho Okpeke‚ CEO of Main 0ne and Chairperson of the Presidential Committee on Broadband; and Mr. Kashifu lnuwa Abdullahi, Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), to familiarise Governors on the new National Digital Economic Policy.

“The minister briefed the forum on new national digital economy strategy and solicited the support of states on the development of business regulations around right of way and multiple taxations, around skills and innovations, infrastructure and indigenous content promotion.

“Governors expressed their readiness to collaborate with federal ministry of communications and digital economy to developed state-level digital strategies and committed to harmonise all right of way charges across state to achieve the 70 per cent national broadband Penetration by the end of 2020.

“Members also invited the ministry to take full advantage of the universe service Provision Fund (USPS) which was set up to facilitate investment in critical communications infrastructure across part of the country not considered commercially viable.

“Following a presentation on the Citizens‘ Home Ownership programme ‘by the MD/CEO of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN) Architect Ahmed Musa Dangiwa, members pledged to engage with the Bank to address housing deficit in the country.

“Finally, the Forum received presentation from the Executive Director of the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), Olabode Abikoye, on a sub-national engagement model for youth employment in agriculture.

“Governors agreed to meet with relevant parties to discuss modalities for implementing the model.”

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