UNABLE to pay workers’ salaries, state governments of the federation are now desperate to access a World Bank grant of $4.25 billion.
The governors, meeting under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), in the early hours of Thursday, invited officials of the World Bank, led by its Director, Rachid Benmessaoud, to make a formal presentation on how to access the funds.
Speaking after the meeting, Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State told State House correspondents at old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that a few states had already been able to access about $1 billion out of the amount.
He said states were expected to provide counterpart funds before the World Bank could release the money to aid infrastructural development in areas such as health, education, rural access roads, agriculture, revival of livestock, water supply, among others.
He said: “The world bank portfolio for the state for this year is $4.25 billion and out of that, $3.25 billion is lying there undisbursed, which means the states are not meeting their conditions or not moving fast enough to draw this $3.25 billion.
“You know $3.25 billion can do a lot to improve the lives and 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 or bottleneck to ease the access of these monies.”
Also speaking, chairman of the NGF and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, explained that states were less interested in accessing the grants because of the bottlenecks associated with getting it.
He said the commitment to develop their states and meet recurrent expenditures in the face of shrinking resources necessitated their renewed vigor to access the grants.
According to him, “we, the NGF, had a meeting, where we invited the Country Director of World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud, to brief the forum on the money lying down in the World Bank, which largely belongs to state governments, but has not been accessed.
“Because of the cumbersome procedure in accessing these funds, most of the governors did not even know they had such funds there.
“It was the initiative of the Kaduna State governor that the bank should come and make this presentation, so that they can educate us to know that these monies are there for us to access, especially with this kind of precarious situation we are in.
“The presentation from the World Bank gave us opportunity to agree on terms. The governors made their own contributions, especially on the issue of counterpart funding, which the World Bank accepted they are going to look into.
“Also, they agreed that they will give us the details, state by state, how much is lying down for each state and how we are going to access it.”