Niger State Governor, Abubakar Bello in a move to wriggle out of the present economic meltdown and meet up with the demands of his states including the payment of workers salaries, has said that there was need to cut down on public expenditures. According to him, cutting cost was one sacrifice necessary to save the state from indebtedness.
Lamenting that he could not continue to borrow money to pay salaries, the governor said that already, the state had been hit with N3 billion debt, saying it would be N10 billion should it continue to borrow.
Governor Bello who spoke to State House Correspondents after a private meeting with President Mohammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja on Wednesday however refuted claims that the state had pruned down salaries of workers.
He said: “No no no! We have not resolved to pay half salaries but what we are saying is that from January this year we have been borrowing from bank to augment whatever we have been getting from FAAC. As at this month, we are owing almost N3 billion. If we continue like this, by December, we will be owing N10 billion. So I think we should go back to the table. Of course, we can’t give what we don’t have but we are facing difficult times now let’s sit down and see what we can do.
“I really think it is unhealthy to keep on borrowing just to pay salaries. Apart from that, we are not just there to pay salaries. There are a lot of issues. I got call this morning from one Girls Secondary School; that their roof is off in six out of seven dormitories. Where will they sleep? Now, if I take the whole revenues and pay salaries, how am I going to fix schools, hospitals?
“Niger State has a population of over four million, civil service strength of about 40,000. We get N1.5 billion from federation account and even with that, we still have to borrow to pay 40,000 people against over 3 million people that we need to cater for.
So I strongly believe and honestly we should look at it. It is nobody’s fault that the price of oil has gone down. It is nobody’s fault that the revenue has gone down. We are facing difficult times but hopefully things will improve.
“But we should all make sacrifices. I’m willing to make sacrifices, all my appointees are willing to make sacrifices. We have shown example by cutting down our expenditure. We have cut down the operation of the expenses of the government house from N150 million a week to N20, 25 million a week. So, we have cut down government house expenditure by over 70 percent and I mean these are all sacrifices.
“We have saved some money. We are doing a bit of projects including the federal roads, the Suleja-Minna Road is motor-able now and very soon we will start working on Bida. I was asked at a function yesterday where I got money from. But the truth is we just have to improvise. We have to save to move in.
“I read somewhere we are going to reduce salaries but is not true but we engaged labour and we are still talking to them. We have laid the cards on the table. We are not hiding anything. We are very transparent as much as we can but the truth of the matter is that I cannot give what we don’t have. I wish I had, personally if I had, I would have paid from my pocket but I can’t”,
he said. Asked whether he would probe the financial spending of his predecessor, Babangida Aliyu, governor Bello said “There is an ongoing investigation. We have recovered some pension funds that were misappropriated though not much. Investigation is still on. I believe the team has met with the former governor. I don’t want to interfere with their investigations.”