By Levinus Nwabughiogu
Rising from a crucial meeting on that ended at the early hours of Thursday at the Old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja under the umbrella of Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, the governors said that the dwindling prices of oil had drastically affected their States’ income.
Specifically, they said that the burden of the wage was lighter when oil sold at $126 as against the current $41 per barrel.
They therefore sought to have audience with President Muhammadu Buhari on the economy, resolving that the only way out of the quagmire was to diversify the economy to agriculture and mining.
Reading the communique issued at the end of the meeting, the Chairman of the Forum and governor of Zamfara state, Abdulaziz Yari hinted that the Forum also backed the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over the N2.1trillion sanction on MTN.
According to him, the governors agreed that the fine must be paid in full.
He said that they received briefing from the Acting Executive Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NCC, Professor Umar Dambata who explained the matter to them.
He said: “We resolved that we must look at ways to enhance revenue generation and at the same time look at ways to cut our overhead costs more especially the political office holders’ salaries and other overhead expenses.
“The situation is no longer the same when we were asked to pay N18,000 minimum wage, when oil price was $126 (per barrel) and continued paying N18,000 minimum wage when the oil is $41 and the source of government expenditure is from oil, and we have not seen prospects in the oil industry in the near future.
“We will diversify our economy in the area of agriculture and mining. But at the same time, we should understand our situation where some of us (states) today are taking N100million take home (monthly allocation) and then have salaries in particular of over N2billion to pay.
“We therefore agreed here to take this suggestion to NEC in our meeting tomorrow (Thursday) so that we can be able to find ways to tackle this problem.
“And we are looking at coming together to discussing with Mr. President and his team, with governors, technocrats and experts in the economy to see how we can tackle our troubled situation. We are working harder to deal with it.
“Hence the MTN has accepted that they committed the offense and has apologised, and they are looking for leniency, we the governors forum decided to support the NCC to abide by the laws of the land and the laws of our land do not not give leniency to deliberate offense to our nation.”
Yari also revealed that the forum also received a presentation from the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) which will help in boosting mechanised agriculture and improve small and medium businesses especially in the rural communities.