Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has cried out that the Federal Government underpaid the state in the first tranche of Paris Club refund to states.
The governor has also dismissed insinuations that the state squandered what it got from the first tranche of refunds to states.
Wike told THISDAY in an exclusive interview yesterday that while other states got 25 per cent refund as approved by President Muhammadu Buhari in the first tranche, Rivers State alongside Akwa Ibom and Delta states got only 11.5 per cent.
He said despite the fact that the state did not get what other states got in the refund, it spent what it got judiciously and would wish anybody to crosscheck.
His words: “I have to say this for purpose of emphasis and for people to understand. Rivers state is one of the states that is not liked by the federal government and so I would want to, for purposes of clarity that if anybody wants, they should tell Rivers State to come and say what we did with our Paris Club refund even though we were not refunded 25 per cent as approved Mr. President.
“Rivers State, Akwa Ibom and Delta States were given 11.5 per cent of the money; other states were given 25 per cent of the money. For record purposes let the world hear. Is it because we are peace loving people, we will always believe we are one Nigeria, we want to work together?
“But even at that, the share of what we were given, were shared to local governments and I have directed the local governments that any of them that owes must use that money to pay salaries which they are doing.”
He disagreed with allegations that most state governors mismanaged the first tranche of the Paris Club refund.
He stated: “First of all I will disagree with you when you say most state governors. I don’t know the state governors you are talking about whether I am included or not. But for the avoidance of doubts let me state clearly that this country operates a federal system and that we have the state government, federal government and the local government, therefore if money is shared between the federal government and the state government, therefore it is the responsibility of the federal government to use their funds on what agenda they want; so it also applies to the state government. That on itself does not mean that as state government we are not accountable to our people, we are accountable.”
He stated that the state used the refund to pay salaries and pensions while the balance was used in the execution of projects.
He challenged the Federal Government and other organisations to come to the state to investigate what the state used the refunds for, stating that he was sure the Federal Government would not want to embark on such exercise because it already knew that the state would become a reference point for excellence.
He said, “I have told everybody that wish: they can come and see what we have done with our money. I am in opposition party: we are not liked and I know it. So the issue of squandering and not squandering, no one should put Rivers State government into it.
“You know that if we squander, we will be one state they will vilify, one state you will hear the news everywhere. We did not (squander) and we will not because we have a covenant with our people. The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other organisations should come to Rivers State and say show us what you did with the Parish Club Refund. But they won’t come because they know we have put the money where it is supposed to be; so they should pay us fully in the second tranche what they pay to other states”.
Wike said his administration has already earmarked what it would use the second tranche of the Paris Club refund for.
“If the money comes today, we will spend the money on Unity Road, Bori-Sakpenwa Road, complete the Braithwaite Specialist Hospital, the general hospital that has been abandoned, the schools, so everybody will see what we are using the money for,” he said.
He continued, “So for me I am not into this politics of saying oh, he used the money for this or that, people can talk in their own various states, national assembly members that are quarrelling with their governors can ask them what they are doing with their refund but for Rivers State we are waiting .
“We can charter flight for them, listen, we will charter flight for them to come and see what we are doing. We are even funding institutions of the federal government they refused to do in our state, we are doing it with our money so for us we have no fear. Our money was very well spent and we don’t need anybody to check us. If we don’t spend our money well, they will haunt us, we are one state that they are always hunting, are hunting and will always hunt but let them come and check, we did not and will not misapply the money.
“Let me tell you that we will always use our money well, let them come and check. We are ready for them, we have no fear. You know why they won’t come? Because they will use Rivers State as point of reference. Our positions are clear, we used the money very well, let them come and check.