20 May 2016, Lagos — Governors of the 36 states of Nigeria are seeking to access about $3.2 billion from the World Bank to curtail the fiscal challenges they face from the challenges posed by dwindling oil prices.
The revelation was made, yesterday by the Governors’ Forum after a meeting with officials of the bank at Presidential Villa in Abuja, Wednesday night.
The meeting was convened by the Nigeria Governors Forum.
Chairman of the forum, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, told journalists that the forum decided to invite the Country Director of World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud, to brief them on the money in the World Bank which largely belonged to state governments but could not access.
Yari said because of the cumbersome procedure in accessing the funds, most of the governors did not even know they had such funds in the bank.
He said it was Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State, who sold the idea to his colleagues to invite World Bank officials to educate the governors to know that this money is there, especially in view of difficulties faced by them in terms of how they could move their states forward by infrastructure development.
Yari said the governors raised issues as regards the provision of counterpart funding, being a requirement to access the fund, adding that the World Bank officials promised to look into the matter.
He said: “We discussed sincerely on the issue of counterpart funding. It is more difficult for us to fulfill our own part because we are struggling to see how we can pay salaries. That is the most difficult aspect of it.
“They promised that they will look into it and immediately that is done, the states will move fast to ensure we access it.
“Also, they agreed that they will give us the details state by state; how much is available for each state and how we are going to access it.
“As of now, they are ready to facilitate a kind of workshop for state governors and commissioners of finance and other staff, so that we can know how best to move and access these funds for the betterment of our respective states.”
El-Rufai, who also spoke with reporters, said the World Bank portfolio for the states for 2016 was $4.25 billion, of which, he said, “$3.25 billion is lying there undisbursed.”
The Kaduna State governor said the funds were idle because the states were not meeting their conditions or moving fast enough to draw the $3.25 billion.
“You know $3.25 billion can do a lot to improve the livelihood of our citizens in the state and the World Bank has expressed its flexibility to look into the challenges we are facing as well as the procedure to ease access to this money,” he said.
He also said the World Bank wanted the states to withdraw the money as quickly as possible so that citizens would get its benefits, including health, education, rural access, agriculture and the revival of livestock and water supply.
“These are the areas that most of these funds are dedicated and we all need the money because we are all broke, so we are going to work very hard to try to get these monies in trust,” El-Rufai said.