When the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Zamfara State governor, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari announced that the governors had endorsed the withdrawal of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the fight against insurgency in the north-east, it was seen as ‘one good turn deserves another’.
The belief was that since the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government had been giving the states some form of financial bailout to meet their recurrent expenditures and refunded Paris Club debts overpayments to them (states), the governors were paying back the federal government’s gesture by approving the fund without much ado.
That was the general impression until the governor Ekiti State Mr. Ayo Fayose distanced himself from the NGF’s approval for the withdrawal of such huge sum.
Fayose gave a political colouration to the fund saying it was a clandestine move by the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government to fund Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
“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 ECA, which belongs to the three tiers of government to fight an already defeated insurgency.
“Since they said they have defeated Boko Haram, what else do they need a whopping sum of $1 billion (over N360 billion) for; if not to fund the 2019 elections?
“The APC promised to wipe out Boko Haram within six months, now it is 31 months and what the APC government is wiping out is the economy of Nigeria and the means of livelihood of the people,” he said.
Fayose added that N360 billion was equivalent to what the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) share to the federal government, 36 states and 774 local councils monthly, nothing that “Nigerians deserve proper explanations from the federal government on the rationale behind spending such huge sum of money to fight an already defeated Boko Haram.”
Hunger Haram has ravaged Ekiti State
Fayose said his state was suffering from kidnapping and hunger haram and suggested that the money could be withdrawn but it must be shared among all the governors so they can use it to tackle their challenges effectively.
“I’m not in support of $1 billion and will never be in support. I did not attend the meeting, even if I was part of the meeting I would have made it expressly clear, but I will not support it.
“Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. Ekiti has hunger haram where hunger is catching people everywhere. A lot of people are being kidnapped daily. They (the FG) either vote money for me from the $1billion or we share the money for everyone to go and solve their problem. I have challenges and I have to be left to handle my challenges. They should give me Ekiti money” he said.
Continuing, he said”. In my state, we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right, all accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and for me to get justice I have to go to court.”
And not leaving anything to chance, the chairmen of the 16 local government areas in Ekiti State sued the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice as well as governors of the 36 states of the federation for approving the withdrawal of $1bn from the ECA for the fight against insurgency.
They, through their lawyer, Ola Olanipekun, filed the suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1264/17, before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Tuesday.
A 14-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Everest Igweokolo, a litigation executive in Olanipekun’s law firm, was filed in support of the suit.
The plaintiffs prayed for an order of injunction restraining the Federal Government and the governors of the 36 states of the federation or their agents, from giving effect to “the appropriation and/or approval of appropriation of the sum of $1bn from the ECA of the federation.”
Caught in the web of controversy, the vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo attempted a fruitless damage control when he said rather unconvincingly that the $1 billion was not meant for the fight against insurgency alone but was meant for all security challenges experienced in all the states of the federation.
“It was on account of the security summit that the governors at the Governors’ Forum subsequently decided that they would vote a certain sum of money, which has become somewhat controversial, the $1 billion, to assist the security architecture of the country.
“It was to assist all of the issues in the states, including policing in the states, community policing, all of the different security challenges that we have.
“It was after the security summit that the Governors’ Forum met across party lines, again I must add, in order to approve and to accept that this is what was needed to be done to shore up our security architecture,” said Osinbajo.
The vice president’s ‘clarification’ contrasted the earlier position of Yari and the APC governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki who had said the fund was approved for the fight against insurgency.
“The National Economic Council (NEC) also resolved through the chairman of the governors’ forum to support the effort of the federal government in the area of security. Pleased with the achievement that has been made till date in the fight against insurgency particularly in the North East, the governors of Nigeria through their chairman announced at the NEC meeting that the governors have given permission to the Federal Government to spend the sum of $1billion US dollars in the fight of the insurgency. This money is supposed to be taken from the ECA,” said Obaseki
APC wants to get money through the back door–PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said through its national publicity secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan that it was disturbed by APC’s grand design to secure approval to through the backdoor to fight insurgents which the government said it had defeated. It accused the APC-led federal government of going through the National Economic Council while “avoiding the direct constitutional appropriation channel of the national assembly for funding of items already provided for in the federal budget if it actually has nothing to hide.”
“The PDP supports the fight against the insurgency. We hold our officers and men confronting the terrorists and securing our territorial integrity in high esteem, but we are concerned about the manipulative tendencies connected with the approvals as well as the veracity of claimed purpose of the fund.
“Nigerians would recall that the APC-led federal government had claimed that it has since defeated the insurgents. If it would take a billion dollar from a nation’s savings to kill what they long claimed dead, then we challenge APC government come clean and tell Nigerians the whole truth. The era of lies and propaganda is long gone and Nigerians now know the truth. The Federal Government must be held accountable and stopped from any move to fritter away our national savings. We, therefore, call on the national assembly to interrogate this proposed disbursement and subject it to a thorough, but the rapid interrogation.”
The party also said APC has integrity deficit for lying to Nigerians about the actual state of the fight against insurgency in Nigeria.
“By accepting the $1billion for the fighting insurgency, the APC-led Federal Government has admitted that it lied when it announced that it has defeated the insurgents. They should, therefore, apologize to Nigerians for giving them a false sense of security, resulting in their vulnerability to attacks by terrorists,” the party said while it recalled that the three planks upon which APC hinged their promises were security, corruption and economy where it had apparently failed to deliver. The PDP, therefore, vowed to ensure the APC does not continue to play with the intelligence of Nigerians, who it believes are now only waiting for 2019 to consign the ruling party into the dustbin of history,” said PDP.
PDP’s allegations are preposterous–APC
Spokesman for the APC, Mr. Bolaji Abdullahi responded to the PDP’s reaction noted what it called the preposterous allegation by the PDP that the real purpose of the said $1 billion was to fund our party’s presidential activities, ahead of 2019.
APC stated that the NGF that granted the approval has 11 PDP governors as its members.
“This means that more than one-third of NGF is made up of members of other parties other than the APC,” it said, wondering how the governors who are not members of the APC would support the decision to approve funds that were ostensibly meant to fund another party.
““In essence, the PDP is by this allegation accusing their governors of disloyalty or suggesting that they were bewitched into supporting the decision. It is that ridiculous,” he said.
The APC pointed out that it was easy for the PDP to arrive at “its ludicrous allegation” because a similar approval in excess of $2 billion was granted to the PDP government when it was in power.”
“They knew what they did with the money. It is a classic case of a serial killer who sees even a table knife as a murder weapon. The PDP presided over a government that made it possible for money meant for weapons to be diverted into paying marabouts and all manner of political jobbers ahead of the 2015 election. Therefore, the PDP thinks the same thing is about to happen. They have not realised that it is a new day and President Muhammadu Buhari will not play politics with money meant to protect the lives of innocent Nigerians or allow anyone to engage in such brigandage that Nigerians suffered under the PDP.
“Another reason that PDP has given for opposing the approval was that the federal government has claimed that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. The military authorities have done enough to explain the need for the money. We, therefore, find no need to repeat the arguments. It appears however that the PDP does not understand that winning the peace is as important as winning the war. There is, therefore, no contradiction in saying that Boko Haram is technically defeated and saying that more weapons and training are needed for our military and the military of neighbouring countries whose co-operation is necessary to finally rid our countries of the menace of Boko Haram,” he added.
Down memory lane
While the governor of Zamfara State, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari, disagreed with Fayose that the decision to take the money from ECA was reached at a meeting of the NGF, he (Yari) said such decision was not new, stressing that a similar decision to withdraw $2 billion from the same account was taken during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Nigeria Governors’ Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing had been done in 2014, where $2bn was withdrawn in agreement with the governors at that meeting. Governor (Godswill) Akpabio (then governor of Akwa Ibom State) was the one that moved the motion.
“This time, we realised that there was the need to purchase equipment for the military. So, we felt we should not compromise the issue of security for the entire country.
“We said as governors, we agreed to forfeit $1bn out of our own share of excess crude, which we are going to back up with state assembly resolution at a later time.
“This is not the first time a decision like this is being taken. It happened during Jonathan’s era when they took $2 billion. We all agreed at that time, collectively, in the same chamber to withdraw $2 billion to procure equipment for the military and also for logistics for the military because they were telling us whether it was true or false that our soldiers were being killed.
“Some came on the social media saying they were being killed like rats because they didn’t have the training and the equipment. That was what generated discussions at the same chamber and there was no controversy; there was no opposition to the decision at that time.”
Yari also recalled that under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, over N5 billion was withdrawn when funds were being sourced for the Niger Delta Power Holding Company.
He said the same process was followed to withdraw the money from the same account while respective houses of assembly confirmed the resolution.
“At the governors’ forum, 12 members form a quorum. At the time we took this decision, we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision.
“If anybody has his own way, that he wants things to go, we had the majority and there was no (even) minority opinion at that meeting.
“We looked at the country first before any other issue. It is only when you have the country that you can have politics,” he added.
It’s double taxation to oil producing states
The governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson said the NGF’s decision to grant the federal government permission to utilise $1 billion from the ECA for security was taken in good fate.
He said the decision was not a political one but meant to strengthen the country’s security apparatus.
However, he said the position of the oil producing states is that 13 per cent of the fund should be deducted and paid to each beneficiary state.
“As it has been done before, Bayelsa has no opposition to the withdrawal of money for national security expenditure targeted at improving the capacity of our military and security agencies to protect the territorial integrity of the country and all Nigerians.
“Our position is that the 13 percent derivation element be deducted and sent to the states. Not to do so means that the oil-producing states would be contributing from both ends: we will be contributing our statutory allocations like every other state, and then the 13 per cent derivation which is meant to address special circumstances as oil-producing states, including security challenges,” he said.
Yari, El-Rufai, Oshiomhole, Amaechi, APC are liars–Omokri
An aide of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Reno Omokri, has stated that in an attempt to justify the ‘dubious’ process by which $1billion was taken from the ECA by the federal government ostensibly to fund an anti-terror war with the same Boko Haram that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration said was ‘finished’ and ‘technically defeated,’ Yari, has exposed the APC and its members, as a patently dishonest bunch with no credibility whatsoever.
Yari, an APC member and Chairman of Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) had admitted that he and his colleagues in the APC all agreed to the withdrawal of $2 billion from the Excess Crude Account that was made in 2014.
But Reno recalled that at the material time when the $2 billion was withdrawn in 2014, both the APC and its prominent members like the then Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi; the then Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, and their national leader, Bola Tinubu, denied that there was ever any agreement with the Jonathan administration over the withdrawals.
Reno added that these APC members also publicly attacked the then president and accused him of looting and other forms of corruption.
“In fact, in 2015, when the then Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, said exactly what Yari has been forced to admit to, Governor Nasir El-Rufai (who was not even a governor in 2014 and was not present at the meeting Yari has described) called Mrs. Iweala a liar and described her as ‘morally flexible’.
“Then on July 1, 2015, Oshiomhole was interviewed on Channels Television and described as untrue the statement by Iweala that the governors under the aegis of the National Economic Council agreed to the withdrawal of $2 billion from the ECA and called the process by which the money was withdrawn by the Jonathan administration as an “administrative arrangement not known to the constitution,” Omokri explained.
Omokri disclosed that it was last week that “the fallacious Rotimi Amaechi repeated the falsehood that neither he nor his colleagues were ever consulted or given their acquiescence before the Jonathan administration withdrew funds from the ECA” he said.
Omokri also stated that the then APC spokesman, Mr. Lai Mohammed, had also claimed that the money President Jonathan was seeking was meant to be used to impeach APC governors and rig the 2015 elections.
His (Mohammed) exact words were “With the Jonathan administration allegedly spending or setting aside an average of N2 billion to impeach each governor of APC states, and the PDP-led administration using the common wealth to bribe voters in a desperate bid to win elections at all costs”.
Omokri also noted that Tinubu had called the request by the Jonathan administration “dubious”.
“But in keeping with the principle that no matter how far and fast falsehood has travelled, it must eventually be overtaken by truth, Governor Abdulaziz Yari has now vindicated both former President Jonathan and Okonjo-Iweala, by admitting in 2017 that both he and his colleagues (which included Amaechi and Oshiomhole) actually agreed with the Jonathan administration to withdraw $2 billion from the ECA in 2014. I therefore call on the Nigerian public and the international community to note that the APC and its members all lack credibility and are willing to say anything at anytime to justify their political position irrespective of whether it is true or false,” Omokri added.
RNDA threatens to cripple crude oil production
The coalition of Niger Delta agitators under the aegis of Reformed Niger Delta Avengers (RNDA) described as “insensitive” and a negation of the principles of natural justice by using resources derived from a neglected region to combat insurgency in the North-East in the senseless Boko Haram war to the tune of $ billion from ECA.
In an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari the RNDA also described the plan as “wicked” saying it all disregarded the peace accord signed with the people of the Niger Delta and warned the federal government not to take the prevailing ceasefire agreement for granted.
The open letter which was made available to the media in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State via electronic mail and signed by ‘Major General’ Johnmark Ezonbi, reads partly: “Through the ceasefire, the country is enjoying daily crude oil production of between 2.2 and 2.4million barrels of crude production which amount to billions of naira daily for the federal government. It also helped the country to get out of recession. So, the government should not take our patience and silence for granted.
“We want to state categorically that the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government is insensitive and practically negating the principles of natural justice by using resources derived from a neglected region to combat insurgency in the North-East in the senseless Boko Haram war to the tune of $1bn from ECA.
“Why not access the fund from excess account from the sale of agriculture products in the northern part of the country? Why must it be from the creeks of the Niger Delta?
“The federal government’s insensitivity to the Niger Delta development has obviously reached its crescendo. We will not take this but resist with our might. This broad day light robbery against the Niger Delta people will not be accepted by us. We are going to resist this perpetual injustice against our long-neglected people in the region.”
They, therefore, demanded the Niger Delta’s own share of $1bn from ECA for the development of the Niger Delta within four weeks.
They warned that the region would witness a massive destruction of oil pipelines and installations if the government failed to accede to their demand.
The coalition boasted that in a well-coordinated attack tagged, ‘Cripple the Economy with Zero Crude Oil Production,’ there would be no more oil funds to finance the 2018 budget.
“We will ensure that anything that stands in our way will be crushed without mercy. All foreign nationals are hereby advised to leave the region as all our unit commanders have been put on the red alert to resume ‘operation zero oil production’ on the expiration of the four-week ultimatum.
“The governors of the South-South will not be spared for being part of that decision for the approval of $1 billion to combat insurgency while our region suffers. We are the golden hen that lays the egg but nothing to show for it. The Federal Government will hear from us after the expiration of the four-week deadline.
“Mr. President, we the leadership of the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers RNDA made up of coalition of nine militant groups in the creeks of the most underdeveloped region in the world with the most blessed natural and human resources have watched the activities of the All Progressives Party-led federal government as regards the development of the region and have reached the conclusion that it is not yet Uhuru,” said RNDA
Money will not be spent until senate debates on it–Saraki
ate President, Bukola Saraki yesterday insisted that the debate on the federal government’s plan to withdraw $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight insurgency and other security challenges in the country will certainly hold on resumption from holidays in January 2018.
Saraki said the debate was stepped down due to the absence of Senator Sam Anyanwu (PDP Anambra East) who was meant to present the motion on the floor.
The senate president pleaded with his colleagues to exercise patience on the matter, assuring them that it would be listed as first motion for consideration on the Order Paper next year.
“It will be the first item on the Order Paper. I assure you that we will take it. Our party will not spend money that did not follow due process. I am assuring you that the money will not be spent until we come here and debate on it,” he said.