Lawyer and rights activist, Femi Falana, has urged the immediate past Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to tender an unreserved apology to Nigerians over her role in the unauthorised withdrawal of $2bn from the Excess Crude Revenue Account.
Mr. Falana made the call in a statement Monday, following Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala’s claim that the withdrawal was authorised by former President Goodluck Jonathan, reversing from her earlier statement that it was approved by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee.
The former minister reactions followed an allegation by the governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, that she unilaterally withdrew $2 from the Excess Crude Account.
Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala initially said the claim was “totally without foundation” as the decision to spend the money was discussed with states’ finance commissioners.
After the commissioners denied giving such approval, the former minister said the spending was done on the instruction of Mr. Jonathan.
On Monday, Mr. Oshiomhole accused Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala of using the money to fund Mr. Jonathan’s re-election bid.
Mr. Falana queried the legality of unilaterally withdrawing money from the account, even where it was approved by Mr. Jonathan.
“Assuming without conceding that the release of the whopping sum $2 bn was approved by the president, is Mrs Okonjo-Iweala saying that funds belonging to the three tiers of Government could be unilaterally withdrawn from the ECA by the Federal Government?”
“As the Coordinating Minister of the Economy did she draw the attention of President Jonathan to the illegality of withdrawing funds from the ECA without the approval of the states and the local governments, the co-owners of the fund?”
In spite of the alleged payment of $2 bn for fuel subsidy in December 2014, fuel marketers have continued to embark on strikes over the alleged non-payment of N200 billion subsidy money.
“The claims and counterclaims by the former minister and the fuel marketers calls for urgent investigation of the mismanagement of the fuel subsidy regime under the past government by the Buhari Administration with a view to exposing the monumental fraud that has characterized the policy,” said Mr. Falana.
“In 2011, the National Assembly appropriated the sum of N245 bn for fuel subsidy. Without any amendment of the Appropriation Act, 2011 by way of supplementary budget, Mrs Okonjo-Iweala unilaterally paid N2.5 trillion to fuel marketers. Investigations by the House of Representatives and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission have since confirmed that the bulk of the fund was paid to members of a cabal who did not supply any fuel.”
“Was it the FAAC or President Jonathan that authorized the World Bank expert to engage in the fraudulent payment of over N2 trillion to fake fuel importers?”
He continued, “Having admitted that the withdrawal of the sum of $2 bn by her was authorized by President Jonathan and not by FAAC as she had previously claimed Mrs Okonjo-Iweala ought to apologize to Nigerians.”
“And instead of resorting to shifting blame in this circumstance, the former Minister should stop denying her principal role in the gross mismanagement of the neo-colonial economy of the country.”