Jonathan illegally spent N114bn in eight months, say Reps

FILE PHOTO: House of Representative in session

The House of Representatives has accused President Goodluck Jonathan of illegally spending within eight months N114 billion of the stabilization fund, a federal facility allowed for use only in economic emergency occasioned by crashing oil prices far lower than the government benchmarked price.

For years, instead of an oil sales deficit, the Nigeria has reaped from the windfall of oil prices always selling far ahead of the targeted price.

As such, the lawmakers said, there should be no need to tamper with the savings, a compulsory 0.5 per cent  of all government earnings earmarked as a cushion against dwindling revenues and for exigency in budget financing.

The stabilization fund account is now expected to be part of the recently established Sovereign Wealth Fund, created last year to replace the Excess Crude Account.

The charge came a day after the House threatened to act against the president’s penchant for unbridled borrowings that have skyrocketed Nigeria’s foreign debt volume.

Federal debt profile has seen an upsurge under Mr. Jonathan, since taking office in 2010 and the president has come under attacks for policies that have depleted savings and borrowed more with little to show for it.

As of December 31, 2011, the nation’s external debt stood at US$ 5.7 billion, from US$ 4.5 billion in 2010 and U$ 3.9 billion in 2009, according to the Debt Management Office.

In addition, the president asked the federal lawmakers to endorse a fresh US$8 billion foreign credit lifeline last month to finance certain “pipeline projects”, a move that was sure to raise the external debt to nearly $14 billion, a new high in almost a decade.

The House on Tuesday gave the president 60 days to implement the Fiscal Responsibility Act which prescribes national debt ceiling, although it failed to state what measure may be taken if the order was flouted.

The House on Wednesday said the withdrawals from the stabilization fund were made to finance projects that should have been budgeted for. Lawmakers also accused the president of converting the account to a sort of a “slush fund”.

“This account being a buffer against oil price shock, spending from it should be guided by caution and great circumstance in order to maintain a sound fiscal policy,” said Haruna Fatai, who led the call for a probe of spending from the account.

The House committees on Appropriation and Finance are to investigate the withdrawals and ascertain the actual amount withdrawn by the president and what they were used for.

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