Following mixed reactions on the proposed withdrawal of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account by Federal Government to fight insurgency and insecurity, the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, said the approval of the National Assembly is not necessary since the owners (States) have given consent. But questions abound as to if there exists any law guiding the ECA.
Speaking at the Federal Account Allocation Committee meeting for December, in Abuja, Mr. Idris said though the approved fund is yet to be withdrawn from the account, since the Governors of the 36 states of the Federation had reached a consensus before giving approval, no other requirement was necessary.
“Ordinarily, savings in the ECA should have been distributed to the three tiers of government, who are the owners of the money. So, if the same owners decide that part of the money be utilised to provide security for life and property in the country or make the system work, I don’t think there is any issue in that.
“The entire Federation have decided. There is an instruction and directive to that effect. There is a consensus; a common position and no dissenting voice, we (FAAC) have no option than to go with the directive as given.”
The Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose had earlier in a Statement, frowned at withdrawal the of the fund, alleging that the Federal Government was planning to spend the fund for President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election, even when he (Buhari) has not said he would be contesting
“For posterity sake, I wish to place it on record that I was not among the governors, who approved the withdrawal of almost half of our savings in the Excess Crude Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government to fight an already defeated insurgency.”
Reacting to his claims, the AGF said Fayose should lay his complaints to the appropriate quarters.
“I don’t know about Ekiti State Governor as a dissenting voice. He should have made his position known to the Governors’ Forum. His dissention should not come to the AGF, or on the pages of Media. He is entitled to his opinion though. But, he should direct it to the appropriate forum.”
Governor Yari’s Defense
The claim was also debunked by the Governor of Zamfara States and the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), AbdulAzeez Yari, who said the approval was a collective decision from States and Fayose was just saying his own.
“I am saying that that statement was an unfair cut against the Forum. When a decision is taken by the Forum in one’s absence, once there was a quorum at the meeting where the decision was taken, (it) becomes binding on all. I am sure Fayose was not making the statement to undermine the Forum. He was just doing his thing.
“If Governor Fayose was there at the meeting, he would have seen the wisdom in the decision. Yes, the administration is claiming to have decimated the insurgents out of Sambisa Forest but they are reemerging in different flashpoints across the country. They need to be tackled wherever they are and the NGF decided to support the Presidency just as it (The Presidency) had been supporting states with their own problems.”
The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila also explain the limits of the National Assembly as regards public funds and its appropriation.
“The ECA does not belong to the Federal Government but to the three tiers of Government.
“The National Assembly cannot query how the states decide to spend their money. The only institution that can query this is the State Assembly.”
Mr Femi said Fayose has right to kick against the approval of the fund because it is within the State Assemblies jurisdictions to approve it and not the NGF.
“Where the governors have decided to “donate” some of their funds from the ECA to fight Boko Haram, their state Assemblies can kick against it that such was not appropriated by them.
“No matter how inappropriate, if he does not accede to the request or deduction from his state’s portion there is no amount of consensus that can bind him as postulated by the Chairman of the Governors forum because such portion belongs to his state and not to the Governors forum. So he may be entitled to a refund,” he concluded.
The Excess Crude Account is an account which was specially created to save money excess from certain benchmark from the sales of Oil. When it was created by President Obasanjo, its main objective was to protect planned budgets against shortfalls due to volatile crude oil prices. What this means is that in case there is an external shock in the price of oil, say like a sudden drastic reduction, monies for this account will cushion the effect.
In 2010, Nigeria’s National Economic Council approved a plan to replace the Excess Crude Account with a national sovereign wealth fund known as the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF). This was because the ECA was largely seen as illegal, with little or no clear procedures.
While the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) ran, the account known as the “Excess Crude Account” continued to be operated. In November, the Senate scrapped the ECA through a resolution and asked the Executive arm of Government to pay such monies into the Federal account in line with the Constitutional provision.