By Ononye VC
ABUJA—THE Minister of information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed Wednesday said that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration has so far reimbursed state governments about N447 billion for expenses incurred on construction and rehabilitation of federal roads and bridges.Alhaji Mohammed made the disclosure while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.He said said the release was the first tranche of such reimbursement. The Minister announced that following the money already released to the affected states, the council in its Wednesday’s sitting, approved the sum of N18 billion refund for Yobe State out of the N20 billion bill it submitted. Mohammed gave a breakdown of the amounts of such reimbursement by some of the states, stressing that the reimbursement was for projects implemented before the coming of the present administration. According to him, most the beneficiaries are opposition states, indicating that the Buhari administration does not discrimination contrary to claims in some quarters. He explained: “I think it’s important to say that, well it’s true that we’re just reporting this particular memo, which is the refund being sought by Yobe State government; Yobe State government is asking for the sum of N18,663,843,109 as reimbursement for five federal roads, which they rehabilitated or constructed. “A committee was set up to inspect the claim, they were actually found to be true. They reviewed the N20 billion they asked for and certified 18 billion as refund due to Yobe State for undertaking the construction/rehabilitation of these federal roads on behalf of federal government. “But this is not the first time. We have, since 2015, made refunds to about 24 states. If my records are correct and I want to put on record here that but for the benevolence of this administration, many states would have sunk under. “You will remember that by the time we came in’ about 27 states of the federation were unable to pay salaries, they owed salaries and could not pay. It took this federal government to really bail many of them out so they could pay not only salaries, but also they could pay the arrears. “When the price of crude crashed, this same government gave each state what is called a bailout and some of the states today that complain that they’ve never benefited from the federal government, especially the PDP states, are the ones that have taken the lion share of this reimbursement. “The records I have here say that Akwa Ibom got to the tune of N61 billion from this federal government for works done on behalf of the federal government and especially before we came in. Rivers had upwards of N100 billion. But we show that for this administration, it does not matter whether you are PDP or APC or you’re Labour or you’re APGA. This administration looks at you as a Nigerian and when largesses are being distributed, it does not favour you just because you are from APC state or from a friendly state. “The first tranche of these reimbursements about N477 billion was refunded to many states; Edo got N8 billion; Lagos got N106 billion; Niger, N333 million; Ogun, N37 billion; Delta 56 billion; Ebonyi, 10 billion; Enugu N12 billion; Jigawa, N10 billion; Ekiti, 10 billion and this was the first tranche. “Second tranche and the last tranche, I think if I remember, I think it’s Yobe and two other states that are supposed to be the next batch. “We have Yobe, which has gotten its N18 billion today for works that they undertook on behalf of the federal government.: He also affirmed that most of the states would have gone down but for the bailout funds made available to them by the administration. While noting that the reimbursements were for the work implemented in the previous administration, he said: “It was actually as a result of this reforms we’re making that we said henceforth, you cannot take on your own federal responsibilities.” He further said: “I think this is a good opportunity to also let you know exactly what the federal government has done between 2015 and today, to ensure that states stay afloat. “Honestly, without the federal government bailout, most states would have gone under. “Like I said, apart from these reforms that were made, I said earlier on that when we came in, 27 states could not pay salaries and federal government had to bail those 27 states out. Not only did they give them money to pay salaries, they also gave them bailout to pay arrears.” Mohammed, who clarified that the reimbursement was different from the bailout, explained: “Refunds are when you refund for jobs that were done on behalf of the federal government. That was the first one that we spoke about and we’re speaking about it because Yobe just completed its own. “But before then, I have here phase one of 24 states that were refunded for what they did on behalf of the federal government, even before we came in. “These claims were not based on what they did on our behalf, but what they did in previous administrations. Number two, I have said that but when we came in, 27 states could not pay salaries. So, we bailed them out to be able to pay salaries and pay their arrears. “Now, in addition, we found out also that the states were in difficulties and they could not start any work, in terms of infrastructure, and federal government gave each of them N10 billion. “When the price of oil again, collapsed and states were in trouble, federal government again gave out a bailout of a billion naira per month to each state for eight months and N800 million per month, per state, for over eight months and the records are there. “When also the states complained that they did not benefit from the Paris debt refund, the federal government, again, gave states their own share of Paris Fund and I can let you know that Jigawa State in particular, received N40 billion of this Paris Club Refund. “Next time I come, I’ll give you what every state received in terms of Paris Club. Again, when states complained to federal government for deducting what they owed federal government, Mr. President also said they should be refunded because times were hard. “I’ve said this to let you understand that in spite of things some states are saying about federal government, many of them would have gone under without this government because there’s no constitutional duty on part of federal government to do what we’re doing.