CSOs fault government over use of $18 billion Paris club fund for salary, pensions

Demands explanation on $10 billion unutilised money
A coalition of Civil Societies Organisations (CSOs) has faulted the Federal Government’s decision to channel part of the $18 billion Paris Club debt forgiveness fund to the 36 states governments for payment of salaries and pensions.

The CSOs who barred their minds during a roundtable with media practitioners in Abuja at the weekend wondered why government preferred to turn a blind eye on critical issues of poverty and social inclusiveness required by Nigerians which the fund were meant for when the Paris club creditor nations wrote off the country’s foreign debt in 2005.

They also demanded for explanations on the $10 billion remainder of the Paris club virtual fund meant for the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The Programme Coordinator of the African Centre for Leadership Strategy and Development, Ms. Victoria Udoh, who organized the event in conjunction with Voice to the People (V2P), insisted that payment of salaries and pensioners claim was not a key element of the debt forgiveness deal.

Hinting that the CSOs in the country would mobilise to hold the government accountable on the issue, she noted: “The Paris Club is of two types. We have the Paris fund from the debt forgiveness. That was $18 billion. Then when we were forgiven and we were supposed to utilize $1 billion every year specifically to implement pro-poor programme and it was clear in the area of education, agriculture, infrastructure and health. The conditions were very clear. They did not tell us about recurrent. They were not told to pay salaries and pension from them.
They were supposed to be for pro-poor projects at thegrassroots.’’

And so when they were given this grace they were supposed to spend it on all of these projects.

“When we signed those MDG documents we went to sleep. It was in a meeting five years ago we suddenly remembered that we signed it. When there was this talk of MDG and Nigeria not having enough money to implement MDG and then they went back to the drawing board and we decided to go back to the Paris club to say forgive us our debt because servicing your debt with $1 billion every year we can’t have enough to implement the MDGs or any other developmental projects.

“And then they forgave us. So these funds were supposed to go directly to what we said we were going to use them for. 10 years down the line we are talking about still leaving $10 billion left unspent and nobody is talking about it, the government is not talking about it, civil societies are not talking about it. Everybody is just saying let it be. And now we have come up with another refund that okay we discovered that when we were negotiating for debt forgiveness we had had space too much and then there were funds trapped somewhere that are supposed to be for the states.

“They were neither used by the state nor were used for debt forgiveness and then the administration is saying pay them back to states who originally are the owners and then the condition also for this present refund repayment to states government were also cleared from the presidency that use it for pension and use it for salaries.

“But reports or insinuations in the public domain is that months after this funds were paid to states, salaries are still owned. The pension that they said they wanted to clear and you don’t have money for recurrent they are still there. The situations are still the same. So our main focus today is where is the $10 billion? Why is nobody talking about it?’’

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