The Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has again reacted to claims by the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that his insistence on probity and respect for due process over the controversial disbursement of $2 billion from the excess crude revenue account was persecution to tarnish her image.
Following the recent allegation by Mr. Oshiomhole that Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala illegally withdrew about $1 billion from the ECA to prosecute former President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election bid, her spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, had dismissed it as a “ludicrously false statement that has unfortunately become a trademark of the governor in his public campaign of falsehood against Dr Okonjo-Iweala.”
“The statement is just another example of the numerical diarrhoea that seems to have afflicted His Excellency in recent times in his effort to damage the reputation of the former Minister,” Mr. Nwabuikwu said. “Governor Oshiomhole’s repeated attacks against Okonjo-Iweala indicate that he took the Minister’s rejection of the application very personally.”
One Undung Pam widely circulated an article Wednesday claiming that the real reason for the governor’s action was the former minister’s refusal in 2014 to approve a “Letter of no Objection” for loan requests by Edo State government totalling N5.19 billion from EcoBank and Fidelity Bank.
However, in a reaction, Mr. Oshiomhole’s spokesperson, Kassim Afegbua, who denied anything “personal” between the governor and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, said such claims were cheap blackmail to avoid addressing the contradictions in her responses on the allegations.
For Mr. Oshiomhole, the questions to answer were how accruals in ECA got depleted without the knowledge of the National Economic Council; how monies that were supposed to accrue in the ECA was not captured in the balance sheet presented by the former minister, who unilaterally removed from the money from the ECA in defiance of the constitution.
“How come the minister finds it convenient to publish allocations to states and local governments, but refused to publish accruals into the same account for us to know the status of the account at any point in time; how much was left from where she was distributing from?” Mr. Oshiomhole asked.
He said what he highlighted was that by December 2012, the ECA had a balance of over $10billion, which the former Minister said has been depleted to $2.07billion by May 2015, despite evidence that the last time money was shared from the account was May 2013.
Wondering why there were no accruals in the ECA between 2011 and 2014 when crude oil prices averaged between $100 and $108, and the national budgets was based on $77 and $79 benchmark respectively, Mr. Oshiomhole said at an average gain of $30 per barrel, Nigeria should have earned about $30billion from daily export of 2.3 million barrels of oil.
“The question Okonjo-Iweala could not answer is: how come Nigeria did not make any savings during those three years of unprecedented oil price boom?” Mr. Oshiomhole said.
On the former minister’s claim that she was being persecuted by the allegation, the governor said rather than blame others, she should blame herself for claiming that Mr. Jonathan approved the withdrawal for fuel subsidy payment to petroleum products marketers.
“Does the president have the right and powers under our (Nigerian) laws to give approval for the withdrawal of $2billion from the ECA?” Mr. Oshiomhole asked. “Does the President have the power to usurp the powers of NEC with respect to withdrawals from the ECA? Does the President have the powers to touch any money that belongs to the States and Local Governments?”
Citing the instance of the $5billion Power Intervention Fund, Mr. Oshiomhole said due process was followed, with all the 36 state governors present at the NEC that approved withdrawal from the ECA, apart from authorization the state Houses of Assembly, Local Government Chairmen and their Legislative Councils.
“Just waking up in the morning to declare that “Mr. President” gave the approval and it was used to pay subsidy claims flies in the face of logic, common sense, due process and law,” Mr. Oshiomhole argued.
“Why would a minister that is worth her salt dip her hands into our collective patrimony to take a whopping $2billion on the directives of one Mr. President? Can any World Bank Chief Executive dip hands into the till to take what belongs to all vide approval against what the laws and rules guiding World Bank specify?”
He said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s resort to blackmail using her refusal to grant Edo State government a loan request as reason for his demands for probity and respect for due process borders on fraud and financial recklessness was completely at variance with the real issues at stake.
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