Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has explained how the state spent the bailout and Paris Club refunds.

The governor said his administration spent the funds to settle the backlog of salaries he inherited and improve infrastructure.

Ikpeazu spoke yesterday in Abuja, the nation’s capital, at the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) media conference for chief press secretaries and commissioners for Information from the 36 states.

The governor, who was represented by his deputy, said the state imbibed a culture of transparency in governance by giving quarterly update on the administration’s affairs to Abia State residents.

Speaking on the topic, titled: Application of the Paris Club Refund to State, Ikpeazu said: “The receipt of the intervention funds has become a source of concern to some analysts, pundits, social critics and political commentators. Some comments have been made in the print and social media which were half-truths and sometimes outright lies.

“May I use this opportunity to briefly state the facts. Interestingly, the Abia State government received the following intervention funds from Federal Government: Bailout fund of N14.2 billion, first tranche of Paris refund of N10.6 billion and the second tranche of he Paris refund of N5.7 billion.

“In line with the transparency approach to governance of the current administration, after the receipt of the first intervention (bailout) fund, the Abia State government constituted a committee made up of the different labour union leaders, namely the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP), the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Joint Negotiating Council.

“The committee took charge of the disbursement of the funds to various areas of greater needs and exigencies.

“Indeed, the exercise was conducted devoid of government intervention as 100 per cent of funds received were expended in the services of workers’ payments. This exercise was (by all known standards) transparent and applauded by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Co0mmission (ICPC), which singled out Abia and two other states for their transparency in the disbursement and utilisation of the fund.

“Fifty per cent of the first tranche of the Paris Refund was dedicated to the payment of workers’ salaries and wages. We also disbursed an additional N600 million to augment the payment of workers’ salaries and wages. Thus, a total of N5.9 billion was spent therein.

“The second tranche of the Paris refund received by Abia State was 100 per cent spent on workers’ salaries and pensions. This has greatly curtailed the salary arrears and responsibilities of the government.

“Overall, Abia received N16.3 billion from the Paris Club refund and deployed N11.6 billion to service workers’/pensioners’ wage bill. This translates to a commitment of more than 71 per cent of total receipt to service workers’ salaries and pension.”

On challenge the state was facing, Ikpeazu said: “The challenge has remained that while trying to clear the backlog of salaries, they keep piling as most of us can testify. This is as a result of the fact that allocations from the centre and the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) have not been enough to carry the monthly wage bill and other responsibilities.”

The governor also spoke on the efforts by his administration to ensure that workers get their salaries as at when due by introducing the verification and biometric to curb ghost workers.

He said: “With the introduction of the verification and biometric exercises, some issues, such as ghost worker’ salaries, padding of salaries, multiplicity of people receiving salaries from various units of the government have been addressed.

“This has assisted the state greatly, as the monthly wage bill has been reduced from an average of N2.8 billion to N2.1 billion. Thus, from this alone, a savings of about N600 million monthly has been achieved. When extrapolated in 34 months, this amounts to about N16 billion, which would have ordinarily gone into some individuals’ accounts.”

The governor’s Chief Press Secretary Enyinnaya Appolos said: “The state government has brought about transparency and decency in the system. We have built more confidence on the relationship between the labour unions and the government. This can be attested to by the trade unions leaders and their members in the state.

“Currently, the Abia State government is up to date with the salaries of its ministries, department and agencies (MDAs). In essence, these are the painstaking reforms we have carried out since the inception of this administration.

“This does not suggest that Abia is not owing some outstanding salaries.”

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