Okonjo-Iweala, govs trade words over alleged $20 bn oil money

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and governors of the 36 states of the federation have continued to trade words over allegations that the outgoing administration has not accounted for about $20 billion that was realised as excess crude revenues in the last two years.

The governors, under the platform of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, on Tuesday asked the Minister to give explanations as to what happened to about $20 billion that accrued in the Excess Crude Account during the period.

Presenting the communique at the end of the meeting in Abuja, Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi, said members of the forum was interested in knowing from the Minister how the accumulated revenue was disbursed.

“In the light of the fact that funds in the Excess Crude Account were last disbursed in May 2013, there is need for the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to provide explanations for accruals to this account from June 2013 to April 2015, which is estimated at over $20 billion,” Mr. Amaechi said.

But, on Tuesday, the Minister reacted angrily to the demand by the 36 states governors, describing it as strange.
The Minister, through her spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, said there was no basis for such a demand to be made in the first place, let alone the stated amount.

“The statement by the governors is totally strange, because FAAC (Federation Accounts Allocation Committee) meets every month and the ECA (Excess Crude Account) is discussed at every session with all the state Commissioners of Finance present. Nothing is hidden,” Mr. Nwabuikwu said.

According to Mr. Nwabuikwu, during the FAAC meetings the Minister of State, Bashir Yuguda, who is the Chair of FAAC, usually announced the balance in the ECA before being discussed.

He said governors who want any information about the ECA should ask for details from their various Commissioners for Finance and Accountants-Generals who would be in a better position to have the records of what was discussed and agreed upon.

Besides, details of the ECA, Mr. Nwabuikwu said, are usually published every month along with the allocations to the three tiers of government.

On the governors’ reference to June 2013 as the last time account was rendered on the system, Mr. Nwabuikwu said it is probably because the National Economic Council last met in May 2013.

“It is interesting that Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who was reported to have read the communique on behalf of the governors made a similar unsubstantiated allegation in November 2013 that $5 billion was missing from the ECA,” Mr. Nwabuikwu said.

He said the ministry subsequently showed that not only was the amount not missing, but Rivers State had actually received N257.6 billion from the Federation Account between January and October 2013, the second highest among the states, of which N56.2 billion from the Excess Crude Account was a part.

He assured that the Ministry would shed more light on the issue in the interest of transparency and accountability, as the Ministry would soon publish details of the ECA for the last four years.

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